Berks Co. Press Conference Addresses Rash of Overdoses

September 15, 2021

Over 100 overdoses were reported at Reading hospitals over the weekend of September 11 & 12, due to a illegal cocktail of heroin, fentanyl, xylazine (a horse tranquilizer) and an unknown substance.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, county officials held a press conference, warning the public to be wary, and urging people with substance use disorders to seek treatment.

“Those numbers are shocking, astronomical,” Adams said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “Clearly, a bad batch of drugs landed in our community, and we are taking steps to stamp out this problem.”

At the press conference, Adams was joined by Dr. William Santoro, chief of the division of addiction medicine at Tower Health, and Council on Chemical Abuse Executive Director Stanley J. Papademetriou.

Dr. Santoro said 101 patients presented at two area hospitals with symptoms that included weakness, low heart rate, elevated blood pressure, difficulty walking, and in some cases hallucinations and shortness of breath. The symptoms last days, not hours, he warned. Two-thirds of patients required hospitalization, and one person has died.

While Reading Police have made several arrests in the case, Adams cautioned people to be particularly cautious of illegal drugs in blue bags.

Papademetriou stressed that help is available for people struggling with substance use disorder, and has been throughout the pandemic.

“Treatment is available and treatment does work. We know many people do recover from addiction,” Papademetriou said.

He urged people to carry Narcan, particularly if a loved one is suffering from substance use disorder. Narcan is a drug that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug. While it wouldn’t work against the recent spate of overdoses, which contained a mix of opioids and other drugs, he emphasized that “Narcan is a good thing to arm yourself with.”

The Council on Chemical Abuse provides Narcan free to people who live or work in Berks County.

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