With the opioid epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, lawmakers and state officials are increasingly shifting focus toward putting a halt to drug trafficking and keeping a keener eye on the types of drugs used in overdoses. However, recent news shows that Pennsylvania’s recording of drug types in fatal overdoses is lacking. How effective are current efforts to combat illegal drug trafficking, and might the state see a change in the ways it tracks cases involving drugs and overdoses?

Earlier this week, Fox 43 reported on a recent indictment of a Scranton man on drug trafficking charges, in which the man had planned to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, and had delivered heroin and fentanyl on prior occasions. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Office Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Investigations were among the many teams working the case, and were part of a collective initiative to combat the widespread opioid epidemic. Although the Hazelton local still awaits his hearing, he could face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, supervised release and fines. 

While the fight to interfere with drug trafficking is a primary governmental focus, health is another crucial factor of this ongoing issue. Just weeks ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer released an article that focused on the lack of state data concerning the types of drugs involved in overdoses. Most recently, Centers for Disease Control have tracked fatal overdoses involving cocaine and fentanyl; however, the data is scarce and many of these overdoses lack specifications. The Inquirer stresses that data is vital as the opioid crisis continues to take its toll. In 2017 alone, Philadelphia handled roughly 1,200 drug overdose cases — three times the overdose toll number of 2013. As a whole, Pennsylvania had the fourth-highest overdose death rate in the country between 2015 and 2016. Much debate centers around effective tactics to address the epidemic, yet focusing on data appears to be one route to attacking the issue.