SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — In Pennsylvania, community leaders say it’s happening far too often. Families burying loved ones after they becoming addicted to drugs.

Pennsylvania is one of the top five states with the highest number of annual overdose fatalities. But in Schuylkill County,  non-profits and medical groups are working to turn the numbers around.

Eyewitness News reporter Haley Bianco explains.

“The drug problem in Schuylkill County is very, very serious,” said Carole Lee, Gaudenzia Manager.

“We’re in an opioid overdose,” said Kenneth Dickinson, pharmacist and Gaudenzia speaker.

Gaudenzia medical services spoke to community members in Schuylkill Haven about red flag warnings when it comes to drugs.

“The newer ones they keep coming up with tend to be more toxic and more dangerous than the one they had,” said Dickinson.

Kenneth Dickinson led the conversation, starting with the dangers of synthetic drugs. He says new synthetic drugs are  being produced so quickly, that labs can’t keep up with tests for them, and so they can slide through the law.

Dickinson tells me tests have shown that even the same brand of a synthetic drug can have different amounts, meaning the user has no way of knowing how much they’re actually taking.

Dickinson also brought up the dangers of inexpensive drugs.

“Heroin is cheaper. And it’s easy to get heroin. One can buy heroin for like five dollars. That’s less than a pack of cigarettes,” said Dickinson.

He tells me people are often triggered to turn to drugs after dealing with stress or trauma.

The community’s plan is to now start education earlier. Law enforcement’s plan is to infiltrate the dealers.

“It’s like whack a mole with these dealers. You hit one of them, another one pops up,” said Christine Holman, Schuylkill County District Attorney.

“Stay aware. And talk. Don’t be in denial. No conspiracy of silence. That this isn’t happening,” said Dickinson.

And, it can happen to any family – if it hasn’t already.
Dickinson suggests families be aware of the signs of emotional and physical changes. He also recommends that people learn how to use the antidote drug – Narcan –  because he says he’s seen it save lives.