Excela Health ERs in Westmoreland treat 400 drug ODs in 2012
Excela Health treated nearly 400 cases of near-fatal drug overdoses last year, including 93 involving heroin, according to hospital officials.
The majority of the cases involved other opiate-based drugs, including prescription medications, such as oxycodone, opiates, methadone, cocaine, methamphetamine, sedatives and antidepressants, said Jennifer Miele, vice president of marketing and communications.
Miele said the statistics don't represent 400 people who were treated for acute drug poisoning because some patients were treated more than once in emergency rooms in its hospitals in Greensburg, Latrobe and Mt. Pleasant.
Miele said Excela Health Westmoreland treated 60 heroin overdoses; Latrobe Area Hospital treated 22; and Frick, 11.
Dr. Christopher Clarkson, an emergency room physician who has treated drug overdose patients at the Greensburg hospital, said most heroin users brought to the emergency room are in their 20s and 30s.
“I don't think there's really any socioeconomic barriers,” Clarkson said. “Heroin seems to be everywhere — young kids from good families. It's hard to tell who it's affecting. We definitely see it from people with normal, good upbringing.
“You see them in all phases of addiction. The drug is very addictive,” he said.
The first line of defense in saving a person from an overdose is paramedics who respond to an emergency call, Clarkson said. If the person is unresponsive or not breathing, they will resuscitate the patient, then administer Narcan, a drug that immediately reverses the effects of heroin, before the ambulance reaches the hospital.
Not everyone can be revived, Clarkson said.
“Sometimes, people come out of it, and sometimes they don't,” he said.
Patients who have survived an overdose are offered information on where to get inpatient or outpatient treatment, Clarkson said. But the patient has to want the help, he said.
Often a patient will not answer a physician's questions about drug use or the amount of drugs used.
“A lot of people aren't very forthcoming,” Clarkson said.
In 2012, Westmoreland County had 71 confirmed drug overdose deaths, a record. That number could go higher after toxicology test are completed in 14 more cases.
Coroner Ken Bacha said his office has investigated 16 overdose deaths this year, including five deaths in a 21⁄2-day span this week.
Emergency room visits for the treatment of heroin overdoses are becoming epidemic nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 15,000 people die every year from drug overdoses.
In 2008, emergency room visits for heroin overdoses reached 201,000 nationally. Opiate overdoses resulted in 1 million hospital visits, according to the CDC.
Pennsylvania ranks 10th in the United States in the number of overdose deaths.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Harhai campaign emails from 2007 under review, Westmoreland County DA says
- 1 dead, 1 injured in Derry Twp. crash
- Latrobe group cancels raffle, seeks ticket holders for refunds
- Ligonier Township considers cellphone tower requests
- Energy company responsible for polluting Donegal well appeals state’s finding
- Southmoreland High School junior’s broken jaw ‘could have been avoided’
- Stewartsville principal’s comments taken out of context, district claims
- 2 suspects charged with second robbery in Hempfield
- Former Pagans leader works out plea agreement
- Woman charged with assault spree in Jeannette
- Jeannette purse-snatching suspects to stand trial in 5 incidents