Prescription drug abuse up in 2012

Substance abuse-related deaths were down in Blair County last year as compared to the year before, while prescription drug abuse continued to be a growing problem.

Those were two of the findings in annual reports filed last week by Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross in the courthouse.

Ross reported 27 substance-related deaths in 2011 and 20 last year. After a wave of problems related to illegal bath salts, commonly known as Blizzard, county officials banned the sale of bath salts in mid-2011 followed a few months later by a statewide ban. Ross’s reports for 2012 listed no deaths due to bath salts.

Prescription drug problems

Ross and her staff reported a death last February from abuse of prescription medications. In March, a 51-year-old man died due to a combination of medications.

In May, a 51-year-old western Pennsylvania man died in a local rehabilitation facility of “multi-drug” overdose.

Reports also showed a 38-year-old man overdosed on medications to commit suicide.

The coroner’s office and Operation Our Town are aware of the growing problem with prescription drugs and possible solutions are being discussed by Operation Our Town’s Pharmacy Round Table, a group that includes Ross.

One idea that has come up is legislation authorizing the development of a statewide database that would instantly show who has received medication and in what amounts.

State Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, said the creation of a statewide database was mentioned when he ran for office last year, but he knows of no bill that has been submitted to carry through with this suggestion.