WINCHESTER — A recent spike in fatal overdoses has brought the area death toll to 20 this year compared to 22 for all of last year.

Seven overdoses, two of them fatal, occurred in the last week, according to a Wednesday news release from the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition. The numbers are from the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force. The area is defined as Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties.

At this time last year, there were 13 deaths and 84 nonfatal overdoses, Joshua Price, a Virginia State Police special agent and task force coordinator, said in an email on Thursday. The deaths are among some 200 regionally since 2012, when the national heroin epidemic took effect locally.

The 22 deaths last year were a drop from a record 40 in 2017 and reflected a small national decrease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said preliminary numbers indicated there were about 68,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. last year compared to more than 70,000 in 2017.

Widespread use of the overdose revival drug naloxone decreased prescriptions for opioid painkillers and greater access to drug treatment through the expansion of Medicaid in 36 states through the Affordable Care Act are credited for the drop in deaths.

Price urged addicts or families of addicts to contact the coalition or Northwestern Community Services about drug treatment.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

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