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Berks sees recent upswing in drug overdoses, officials say

Lebanon County reported similar cluster of overdoses last week

DA, coroner address recent upswing in drug overdoses

READING, Pa. - Berks County is being plagued by a recent upswing in the amount of drug overdoses, some of which have resulted in death, officials said.

District Attorney John Adams, Coroner Dennis Hess and George Vogel, executive director of the Council of Chemical Abuse addressed the rising trend in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The officials said they want to bring attention to a recent trend of fentanyl laced heroin and cocaine being sold in Berks County and the resulting dangers of the most potent mixture.

"Fentanyl is a very powerful pain drug and if you use it, chances are you are going to die from it," Hess said.

"Fentanyl can be as high as 80 times more potent than heroin," Vogel said. "I mean that's a death sentence when you get something like that in your body."

At least four deaths may be blamed on overdoses, pending the results of testing, officials said.

Officials in Lebanon County last week reported a similar situation, with at least one person dying and five others, all in their 20s, overdosing on a synthetic heroin lookalike over the past couple weeks.

The synthetic form of fentanyl looks identical to heroin but packs a much stronger punch, which may be catching users off guard, said Dr. Jeffrey Yocum, the Lebanon County coroner.

The drug in its prescription form is a powerful painkiller, but what is being purchased on the street is specifically being manufactured to resemble and be used like heroin, Yocum said.

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