Newly released data from the federal government gives an unprecedented look into which Pennsylvania counties received the most opioid pills from 2006 to 2012.
Lancaster County received a total of 100 million oxcycodone or hydrocodone pills during the seven-year period, equal to 27.9 pills per person annually during that time.
The data was obtained by The Washington Post from the Drug Enforcement Administration as the result of a court order.
Of the five Pennsylvania counties that surround Lancaster, Dauphin received the equivalent of 32.2 pills per person annually over the seven-year period; York, 26.7; Chester, 21.6; Berks, 22.1; and Lebanon, 23.2.
Cambria County led the state with the equivalent of 62 pills per person per year, followed by Fayette at 61 and Cameron at 56. Lancaster County ranked 48th out of the state’s 67 counties.
Charleston County, South Carolina, led the nation with the equivalent of more than 243 pills per person per year.
Population data is based on the 2010 U.S. Census.
Health care providers began prescribing opioids at higher rates when pharmaceutical companies assured the medical community they were not addictive in the late ’90s, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a 90-day disaster declaration for the state’s opioid crisis last year, renewing it five times. The state’s attorney general is suing Purdue Pharma, the creator of prescription painkiller OxyContin, for illegally marketing addictive opioids to Pennsylvanians.
Fatal drug overdoses in Lancaster County dropped by 38% — from 168 to 105 — in 2018, the first decrease since deaths began climbing in 2015, when 84 people died. There were 60 fatal overdoses in 2014 and 117 in 2016.