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Heroin overdose deaths still rising in Virginia as officials try to boost awareness

August 15, 2015 | Virginia News

By Gary A. Harki | The Virginian-Pilot

The number of people who died in Virginia from overdoses of heroin or other opioids rose in 2014 for the second straight year, despite efforts by law enforcement and state officials to curb the problem.

Further, the state is on pace to have more such deaths this year than last, said Kathrin Hobron, forensic epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

She said there were 126 confirmed heroin-related overdose fatalities in the first six months of 2015. The comparable figure for all of 2014 was 239 deaths.

“From what I’m seeing, everything is going up right now,” she said of deaths from opioid use.

Opioids include methadone and painkillers such as OxyContin, as well as heroin.

The number of deaths from such drugs started climbing about 10 years ago, in large part because of people battling addictions to prescription painkillers.

The effort to fight the epidemic must include law enforcement, treatment centers and educators, said Capt. Tim Reibel of the state Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Reibel’s 5th Division serves Hampton Roads. ...

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