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Pennsylvania Has Highest Rate of Overdose Deaths Prosecuted as Homicides


As a Philly PHP drug rehab, we work with people who struggle with various substance abuse problems, but opioid abuse may be the most deadly.

With the rising number of overdose deaths from the opioid epidemic, many people are looking to find someone that can be held responsible. Along with pointing fingers at big pharmaceutical companies or the doctors who prescribed these addictive medications, some people have found a new group to blame.

Pennsylvania’s Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Rule

Pennsylvania’s drug delivery resulting in death (DDRD) rule, also known as Title 18, makes it so that people can be charged for homicide if they were the ones who supplied the fatal drug to the person who overdosed. If convicted, these people could go to prison for up to 40 years.1 In 2011, the law was also demoted from a murder charge to a first-degree felony, so it is now easier for people to be proven guilty as there does not need to be an intent to kill for the same penalties.2

Being charged for someone else’s overdose is not restricted to Pennsylvania either. Several other states have similar rules in place, but until recently, they were hardly ever used. Because of the growing number of overdose deaths as a result of the opioid epidemic, more and more convictions of this nature are occurring. Pennsylvania, in particular, has filed the most drug-induced homicide charges with 644 from 2000 to 2017. The next closest state is Ohio, with 385 in the same amount of time. Based on this data, Pennsylvania alone has contributed to a quarter of these cases in the nation as a whole.3 If the opioid epidemic continues at the same rate, these numbers are likely to increase.

The Problem with Pennsylvania’s Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Rule

As a PA drug rehab center, the number of drug overdose deaths and people convicted of homicide for these deaths is concerning. While the drug delivery resulting in death rule is meant to deter drug use, it can also be problematic.

In theory, this rule should help put big-time drug dealers behind bars, but this is not always the case. On several occasions, friends who shared drugs with the victim are faced with these charges. Research suggests that as many as 53% of people charged with these violations are not drug dealers but instead friends, family, caretakers, and even doctors of the individuals who overdosed.3 Instead of putting drug dealers behind bars, loved ones of the victim may be facing prison time. Arrests like these are also not doing much to reduce illegal drug sales.

There are also concerns that these drug-induced homicide laws could prevent people from seeking emergency medical help for overdose victims. Because Pennsylvania has such a high rate of overdose deaths prosecuted as homicides, it may deter citizens from calling 911 for help for fear of being charged with murder. The end result may be more people dying from an overdose because they never got the medical attention they needed.

Punishment alone is not sufficient. In order to see significant drops in the opioid epidemic, it is important that the state also focus on prevention and getting those already addicted into opioid rehabs in Pennsylvania for help.

If you or someone you love has a substance abuse problem, do not wait to get help. Drug abuse is dangerous, and overdose can happen to anyone. At Banyan Philadelphia, we help people move past their addiction.

To get more details on our programs and facility, call us today at 888-280-4763.

Sources & References:

  1. Pennsylvania General Assembly - Title 18
  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer - is treating more opioid overdoses as homicides. Defense lawyers are learning to fight back.
  3. Northeastern University School of Law - Drug-Induced Homicide

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Pennsylvania Has Highest Rate of Overdose Deaths Prosecuted as Homicides
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