TROY - Bradford County Coroner Tom Carman said recently that he is "very concerned about the skyrocketing number of drug-related deaths in Bradford County."

According to the coroner, there have been 17 drug-related deaths in the county this year. That's compared to 14 in 2011. He said he is saddened and frustrated because drug-related deaths are preventable.

"We're already at 17 six months in," Carman said. "It's a problem." He said it's occurring all over the county.

He said that 60 percent of these deaths "revolved around prescription mixed drug toxicity."

Carman said this can occur, for example, when people take more than one prescription drug or a prescription drug mixed with alcohol.

Alarmingly, Carman said, four of these deaths were related to MDPV (bath salts). A ruling on a fifth death is pending; however, bath salts are suspected due to the known bath salt usage of the deceased.

Carman said the level of drug-related deaths in unprecedented in Bradford County. He noted that last year there was only one bath salt-related death.

"We have never had these kinds of numbers in Bradford County," he said. "The rise in

bath salt-related deaths is extremely concerning. Bath salts are notorious for producing

hallucinations and extreme paranoia to the point of acute, irrational, violent behavior."

For example, he noted that one person on bath salts this year set his camper on fire, got into his vehicle, drove down the road, wrecked the vehicle by getting it stuck in a ditch, got out of the vehicle and walked two to three miles, climbed a tree, and hanged himself with his own t-shirt along the Susquehanna River.

"It is not uncommon for behavior patterns that are extremely violent; such acts of violence are frequently directed inward (as in suicide or self- mutilation) and/or directed outward (as in homicide or violence towards family members, responding agencies, and society in general)," Carman noted in a news release.

In four of the drug-related deaths this year, the people committed suicide, he said. "In one of those four drug-related suicides, the drug was bath salts," he said.

In two additional drug-related deaths, the people were under the influence of drugs and then died in fatal motor vehicle accidents, he said.

"The youngest drug-related death was age 19, the oldest was age 62," the coroner continued. "The average age of those individuals that have died as a result of a drug related death this year have been between the ages of 30 and 45."

"This is very concerning to me when I think about these individuals being at school events, bar rooms, and traveling on our state and county highways. I would encourage anyone with a drug addiction to reach out for help. There are trained professionals in place to assist."

He said people can find many help lines in the yellow pages.

"There's drug help lines all over the place," he said.

"If you are feeling suicidal, contact a professional mental health associate or report to your nearest emergency department for assistance. Like I tell many people, unless I get the call, it is never too late. Seventeen drug-related deaths this year, in a county this size, is totally unacceptable in my mind."

He said no reasons have pinned down yet for the increased drug-related deaths.

Carman said the problem is straining all levels of emergency services in the county.

He said has a three-step advice plan for people with drug problems: recognize you have a problem, have a desire to get help, and then seek help.

"There has to be self accountability. That's the only thing that's going to get a handle on this."

He said family members or friends of drug abusers should also step in and talk to them, find out what's going on with them, and encourage them to get help.

"If they recognize behavior changes, look into it and don't ignore it. Encourage them to get assistance."

"It's never too late to change your life around, to get help, until I get the call. When I get the call, game over."

(This article reprinted from the Thursday online edition of The Daily Review.)

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.