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Preliminary statistics show fatal drug overdoses may decrease in 2018

ROANOKE, Va. – A new report from the Virginia Department of Health is shedding light on the opioid epidemic here in the commonwealth.

One piece of good news -- preliminary statistics predict that the number of fatal overdoses in 2018 will be lower than last year. Nancy Hans, with the Prevention Council, believes that decrease could have a lot to do with the prominence of Narcan, which reverses overdoses. 

"That probably is attributed to us really having a lot more agencies and left enforcement and just lay people that are getting trained in the use of Narcan," said Hans. 

While the Prevention Council believes more awareness and more Narcan is making a difference, council members say more focus needs to be placed on what happens after a life is saved. 

"That next step is being able to give someone that has overdosed those resources or get that to the family of that loved one and really start to get into treatment. Treatment is what we absolutely need," said Hans. 

The numbers do show that the city of Roanoke has the highest rate of overdoses in our area. While the overdoses can be blamed on a range of drugs, the report shows that the number of fentanyl-related drug overdoses has sharply increased since 2012 along with a dramatic increase in fatal heroin overdoses. 

"There are different drugs that are now being mixed together and that's where it continues to be a very, very risky behavior," said Hans. 

Overall, the report makes it clear that opioids have been the driving force behind the large increases in fatal overdoses since 2013 and the epidemic is not over yet.