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Valley News Dispatch

Area companies get expert tips regarding the region's drug crisis

Chuck Biedka
| Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
A needle, spoon, and narcotics bag.
Getty Images
A needle, spoon, and narcotics bag.

The ever-increasing opioid epidemic is causing a growing number of Westmoreland County businesses to get the opioid medicine Narcan for employees or visitors.

About 30 human resources directors and company officials took part in a seminar Friday at Westmoreland County Community College in New Kensington.

Participants got an update about the drug crisis in the county, where to turn for resources and, after training, received a package of Narcan.

Many people may deny it, but they likely will come into contact with someone overdosing, said Liz Comer of the Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission.

“Addiction can happen to anyone,” she said.

Vanessa Sebetich, a Greenbriar Treatment Center official, agreed.

“Statistics show 10 percent of any workforce has some (form of) substance abuse,” she said.

DEA reaches out

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Brian Dempsey, of the Pittsburgh office, said heroin is rapidly being replaced with fentanyl, an abused painkiller usually made in China and smuggled into the United States by a Mexican drug cartel.

“Fentanyl is a real game-changer,” he said, largely because of economics and the ease of making it, compared to heroin.

Fentanyl can be made for about $5,000 a kilogram in a lab in China or Mexico. That's compared to more than $80,000 to obtain and process heroin.

Fentanyl can be shipped in smaller volumes than heroin because it is more concentrated.

And it isn't necessary to get poppy plants from Southwest Asia, process them into heroin and then ship it — all at the risk of detection.

One type of the experimental drug, carfentanyl, can kill if a person simply touches or inhales a tiny amount of the powder.

Dempsey also said some criminals are using pill presses to form fentanyl into pills made to look like legitimate medicine, Dempsey said. The pills even have numbers and other marks to mimic real medicine, he said.

Dempsey said the DEA has intercepted three of the presses destined for Western Pennsylvania.

In 2009, for the first time, drug overdose deaths surpassed traffic accidents as the number one cause of U.S. deaths. Most involved opioid abuse.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, cbiedka@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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