MERCER COUNTY, Pa. (WKBN) – As opioid deaths continue to increase across the country, a group calling itself “Families Against Fentanyl” claims the synthetic drug is now responsible for more deaths among people under the age of 45 than anything else.

“It takes such a small amount of fentanyl to cause an overdose,” said Tracy Weimer, a spokesperson for R.O.A.R. (Removing Obstacles to Assist Recovery).

In a quick check on local figures, Mahoning County has already recorded 44 drug-related deaths this year, 32 of which involved fentanyl. In Trumbull County, fentanyl was found in 25 of the 28 overdoses and in Mercer County, there were 13 deaths as of the end of March, compared to year-to-date numbers for homicides and suicides.

“That’s concerning because last year, in 2022 during the same time period, we had eight,” said Mercer County Coroner John Libonati.

Experts say while overdoses are on the rise, the number of people seeking treatment is falling.

“They are often embarrassed that they were in that lifestyle, and stigma can hold people back from getting the help they need,” Weimer said.

While agencies like R.O.A.R. work to find activities for users to stay drug free, Mercer County is starting what is called “psychological autopsies” on overdose victims.

“Where we’re looking at every drug death, and we’re going back to look at their past and look at where to see how could we have averted that,” Libonati said.

Libonati worries that before much information can be recovered, there will be even more overdoses in the months ahead.

For more information call Mercer County Coalition for Drug Awareness at 724-308-6222