Bradford County drug deaths on the rise

By Adam Chick

February 21, 2013 Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 12:30 AM EDT

Towanda, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Once known as "Meth Valley," Bradford County is seeing drug-related deaths on the rise, but it's not necessarily from the drug that just 10 years ago brought national attention to northern Pennsylvania communities.

Thirteen people died from drugs in 2011 in Bradford County. Last year, that number nearly tripled, with 36 drug-related deaths.

"Those drugs are a variety, but the number one substance of abuse remains prescription drug related deaths," said Bradford County Coroner Thomas M. Carman.

Drugs like Percocet and Vicodin are two of the most abused prescription medications in the United States. These drugs are usually prescribed for moderate to severe pain, and can be very addictive. And when they're abused, they are very dangerous, Carman said.

"Basically what happens is you suffer from respiratory depression which ultimately leads to heart failure and cardiac death. Very slow death," Carman said.

Another drug taking a toll on the community is fairly new. Bath salts hit the streets a few years ago and law enforcement has been seeing more and more of it.

"We probably handle three to five calls a week for people on bath salts. They get very paranoid. They're very hallucinogenic. They think that people are after them," said Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Al Ogden.

Bath salts can cause users to stay up for days at a time. The cause of death for bath salt users is most commonly dehydration, Carman said.

"Bath salts elevate the body temperature to an average of 104 degrees and can go up much higher than that," Carman said.

Ogden says the drug is extremely addictive.

"You get into it once and you're probably going to be hooked forever on it," he said.

Perhaps most disturbing is the age range of the users associated with these deaths.

"Once in a while we'll get an occasional 20- or 21-year-old, but for the most part the average is 30 to 50 years of age," Carman said.

State Police say there's only so much that they can do. The solution to the problem, they say, starts with education and community involvement.

"They see parents or siblings or aunts or uncles or some other family member using it and it's a normal practice for them," Ogden said.

Carman says the solution lies on the individual.

"We have to get back to the basics here where families need to ask questions. They need to pay attention. Friends need to ask questions. But most importantly there has to be personal accountability," Carman said.

It's a problem that Corporal Ogden says won't go away, but can be curbed through education.

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