Last year, Allegheny County, Pa., reported 229 accidental drug overdose deaths, more than twice the total in 1999, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. While some deaths occurred from inadvertent overdoses of prescription drugs or interactions between those drugs, the vast majority were from substance abuse, said a forensic epidemiologist with the coroner’s office.
Accidental overdose deaths also have increased among state residents, from 694 in 1999 to 1,121 last year, says the state Department of Health. Deaths have increased in other states. An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that from 1990 to 2001, death rates from unintentional and undetermined poisonings increased by an average of 145 percent in 11 states studied. Health professionals, law enforcement personnel, and others attributed some of the increase in local overdose deaths to heroin that is purer, more addictive and more deadly. Authorities believe the purer heroin attracts users reluctant to inject drugs. Once about 10 percent pure, heroin is now 70 to 90 percent pure, strong enough to induce a high by being snorted.