Drugs

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill that would have created a drug formulary for the state workers’ compensation program.

Department of Justice Western District of Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh played host to one of the largest cocaine rings in Western Pennsylvania history, according to U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, who served 39 indictments related to the case on Wednesday. The organization spread through Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Los Angeles, with the cocaine sourced from Mexico.

"By taking down an entire multi-state organization at once, the impact on our region is immediately felt," Brady said.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's highest court has ordered a judge to free rapper Meek Mill on bail while he appeals decade-old gun and drug convictions.

The Supreme Court directed a Philadelphia judge who had jailed him to immediately issue an order releasing him on unsecured bail.

Mill was sentenced in November to two to four years in prison for violating probation.

Mill issued a statement saying his five months in jail have been "a nightmare" and thanking all his supporters.

Court To Decide If Drug Use While Pregnant Is Child Abuse

Apr 9, 2018
Gosia Wozniacka / AP, file

Pennsylvania's highest court will determine whether a woman's use of illegal drugs while pregnant qualifies as child abuse under state law.

The Supreme Court has taken up the case of a woman who tested positive for suboxone and marijuana at the time she gave birth early last year at Williamsport Hospital.

A county judge ruled that didn't qualify as child abuse under the state's Child Protective Services Law, but the intermediate Superior Court said drug use while pregnant can make bodily injury likely for a child after birth.

Trump Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty For Traffickers

Mar 19, 2018
Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid drug addiction nationwide calls for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty where appropriate under current law, a top administration official said. 

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

The first medical marijuana dispensary in southwest Pennsylvania opened its doors Thursday.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against drug companies that make prescription opioids, saying they've created "an unprecedented public health crisis."

Tim Betler / UPMC

A new combined 27-bed addiction rehabilitation-detox facility will soon open at UPMC McKeesport.

PA Internet News Service

A drug ring that sold nearly $10 million worth of heroin and cocaine in Altoona and Johnstown is no longer operating following a bust on Monday.

Police arrested 16 people as part the “Dragon Heroin Pipeline,” which officials say were running drugs from Philadelphia to Blair and Cambria counties.

Allegheny County Police

A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed drug and weapons charges stemming from a 2013 case against two men who were later charged in an ambush at a Wilkinsburg cookout that killed five adults and an unborn child last year.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Cashman on Monday granted a dismissal request from defense attorneys for 29-year-old Cheron Shelton and 27-year-old Robert Thomas along with a third defendant in the drug case, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Overcoming Opioids: Easing An Epidemic 1 Doctor At A Time

Jun 17, 2017
Carla K. Johnson / AP

Even doctors can be addicted to opioids, in a way: It's hard to stop prescribing them.

Melissa Jones is on a mission to break doctors of their habit, and in the process try to turn the tide of the painkiller epidemic that has engulfed 2 million Americans.

It was in doctors' offices where the epidemic began, and it's in doctors' offices where it must be fought. So Jones is using some of the same tactics pharmaceutical sales forces used to push their potent pills into communities — this time, to get them out.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When police are called to the scene of a drug overdose they can treat it as a crime scene or an accident scene.  Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala wants it to be treated as a crime scene.

“Over the last year in Allegheny County, we’ve trained about 50 different police departments what they should do when they come on the scene,” Zappala said. “You have to move quickly [to gather evidence] but detectives have been trained specifically in those kinds of things.”

Charles Krupa / AP

Pittsburgh-area law enforcement agencies are equipping K-9 handlers with naloxone as reports of dangerous opioid overdoses continue to sweep the Midwest.

Allegheny County Police Officer Steve Dawkins said dangerous situations are in his 4-year-old partner's job description. 

Hartford Police Department via AP

Recently, paramedics in the midstate have been carefully approaching the scene of a heroin overdose.

They fear they'll come in contact with heroin mixed with a tranquilizer often used on large animals.

Emergency responders have already encountered carfentanil in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

It's said to be 10,000 times stronger than morphine, and is often used to tranquilize an elephant.

Drug Suspect Issues Facebook Warning Not To Call His Phone

Sep 21, 2016
Sean MacEntee / Flickr

Police say a Pennsylvania drug suspect who dropped his cellphone while running away from police took to Facebook to warn his friends not to call that phone number.

Lackawanna County detectives say 25-year-old James Lee Hankins, of Scranton, ran away after police tried to arrest him for an undercover drug deal involving heroin and cocaine on Monday afternoon.

Bayer's Monsanto Creates Global Chemical And Agriculture Giant

Sep 14, 2016
Markus Schreiber / AP

The U.S. seedmaker Monsanto agreed to a $57 billion buyout offer from Germany's Bayer in a deal that would create a global agricultural and chemical giant.

The deal comes with record harvest driving crop prices to painfully low levels for farmers.

It was the third time in four months that Bayer returned with a richer offer to sell the acquisition to Monsanto, and hopefully, its shareholders.

Including debt, the deal is valued at $66 billion. If approved, Monsanto will continue to be based in St. Louis.

When tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted in March to having taken the heart drug meldonium, the public got a rare glimpse of a common practice that's often called "legal doping."

Pennsylvania Drug Report Shows Rise In Overdoses

Jul 13, 2016
Drug Enforcement Administration

Nearly 3,400 people died from a drug overdose in Pennsylvania last year, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report.

It’s a startling increase for a crisis that was already reaching historic highs.

Drug-related deaths in the state rose by nearly 24 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the findings.

Judge Strikes Down Ban On Renting To Felons

Jun 21, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

A Cambria County judge has overturned a borough's prohibition against renting to drug felons.

Judge Tamara Bernstein issued the ruling Thursday, more than four months after Darcy Smith sued the borough of Gallitzin.

Smith, 38, filed her lawsuit after getting an eviction notice upon moving into a new home with her three children. She'd been living elsewhere in the Gallitzin since her release from prison over a year prior.

Courtesy University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health have found that areas that are hot spots for drug trafficking haven’t necessarily seen a corresponding increase in overdose deaths. The findings are based on overdose data from 1979 to 2014 and are published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Sunday to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, ending a nearly two-year effort to approve use of the drug. 

Pennsylvania is now the 24th state to make it legal.

Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, said it will take up to 24 months to implement the program.

“This includes the process of finding and setting up the growers and distributors, setting up dispensaries and identifying and certifying patients and providers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Robinson said.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Senate backers hope medical marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania will get to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk this week.

A Senate committee made changes to the bill Monday, and the bill's backers say they hope it can win passage in the House and Senate this week.

Wikimedia Commons

The rate of young, white females dying from drug overdoses in Pennsylvania is increasing faster than other demographics, according to a new report from the University of Pittsburgh.

Pitt researchers found fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania have increased 14-fold in the last 35 years, and deaths for young white females are climbing especially fast.

The paper's co-author, Jeanine Buchanich, said she isn’t entirely sure why. It isn’t just about the quantity of different drugs, she said, but how they’re using them.

Eric Norris / Flickr

Three Pennsylvania senators will soon introduce legislation to limit the quantity of opioid products dispensed in emergency rooms to no more than a seven-day supply.

Johnny Lucus / Flickr

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday introduced a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, defined as 30 grams, or about an ounce.

State Gets CDC Money To Fund Prescription Drug Tracker

Sep 10, 2015

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has received a renewable $900,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will go toward battling the state's prescription drug overdose epidemic.

Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania. More people die from overdose than do from car accidents -- 2,400 in 2013 alone.

Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, called the overdoses “a critical public health crisis.”

Eric Molina/Flickr

Lawmakers and public health officials say local heroin use shows no signs of slowing.

“I’ve been in health care for over 30 years and it is the worst public health crisis I’ve ever seen,” said Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy. “That is what drives us, that is what gives us our passion, and I can assure you, we will not stop.”

The number of fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania has increased by 89 percent since 1999, according to the Trust for America’s Health. To help combat drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has launched a website called “Get Help Now” to improve public access to addiction resources and information.

The website, designed by three Harrisburg Area Community College students, uses maps and search tools to connect site visitors to anti-addiction resources near them. People can use the site to get driving directions to the nearest treatment facility or to learn more about health insurance options.

Heroin use has been on the rise across the U.S. since 2007, with more than 660,000 admitted users between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In one week last January, 22 people in western Pennsylvania died of an overdose of heroin and fentanyl.

To combat deaths caused by heroin and other narcotic overdoses, the Pitcairn Police Department is partnering with Forbes Hospital to train and equip officers to administer opioid “antidote,” Narcan.

A manufacturing trade group says a new survey links drug use to unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania, though it doesn't catapult the issue out of the realm of anecdotes.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association says the conclusion of a commissioned survey is that one-third of manufacturing job applicants fail or decline to take drug tests.

It's actually one-third of company executives surveyed who say drug tests foiled new hires.