In 2016, 21 overdose deaths were documented in Centre County. So far this year, there have been five, Cathy Arbogast said.
“And really that’s a little misleading in the sense that an overdose death is recorded in the county where it happens,” said Arbogast, assistant administrator for Centre County Drug and Alcohol.
It’s “definitely a possibility” that fatal overdoses in 2017 could outpace those in 2016, she said.
“In some respects, it’s unfortunate to say that, we’re not surprised because there have been strategies that have been implemented that would automatically create the potential for an increase in overdoses,” she said.
Among them is the prescription drug monitoring program, which has been instituted statewide. Physicians are obligated to check the database when they write a prescription for an opiate to see if a patient recently had a prescription filled by another physician, Arbogast said. Pharmacies are also required to enter information into the database when they fill prescriptions for opiates.
It makes physicians more “savvy,” she said, but if someone has a more difficult time securing prescription drugs, they’ll seek other sources — that tends to be heroin.
The heroin on the streets now is often cut with other substances, making it that much more deadly, she said.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to addiction, someone who is trapped in that cycle, it becomes survival mode. It becomes a case of ‘what do I have to do? What do I have to use to get through the next day?’ ” Arbogast said.
It’d be easy to blame drug problems on big cities and the traffic that comes through the county, she said, but a lot of the more complex chemicals are being bought on the internet.
Those are difficult to track, especially when people buy chemicals from overseas or across state lines, she said.
“Chemicals can be purchased over the internet,” Arbogast said, “and basically created and mixed in a way into substances that can be used and abused and to satisfy an addiction.”
Arbogast said there has been some uptick in methamphetamine and cocaine use, and bath salts have resurfaced in some areas (of different chemical composition than those banned).
It’s not clear whether it’s a new trend, a replacement or just another cycle in the “battle” to manage drug addiction, she said.
The stigma associated with drug addiction is “pervasive,” she said. The community has to open up to more discussion so that people feel comfortable seeking the help and resources they need.
“Recovery is possible,” Arbogast said. “Every person is capable of a clean and healthy life.”
Mokita Dialogues: Drug and Alcohol Abuse
What: Discussion on drug and alcohol abuse facilitated by Karlene Shugars, Centre County Drug & Alcohol
When: noon-1 p.m., Thursday
Where: New Leaf Initiative, 243 S. Allen St., State College
Note: The event is presented by Jana Marie Foundation and sponsored by the Centre Daily Times.