Myth: It is mostly young people who are dying in the drug epidemic.
Fact: It is mostly those age 40 and older who died in the past two years in Westmoreland County.
Myth: Heroin is causing most of the deaths.
Fact: Most deaths are from prescription drugs.
Myth: The overdose death problem is a new issue.
Fact: The number of deaths has climbed steadily since 2002. Overdoses have been the leading cause of death among accidents and suicides in Westmoreland County in seven of the last eight years. There have been record overdose death numbers for four years in a row. Excela Health Emergency Rooms reports treating nearly 400 near fatal overdoses in 2012.
Myth: The problem is predominantly in "bad" neighborhoods.
Fact: The worst concentration of deaths in past two years are in the Route 30 corridor, including suburban and rural areas of Derry, Greensburg, Hempfield, Jeannette, Latrobe, Ligonier, New Alexander, New Stanton and Unity.
Myth: The problem doesn't affect many.
Fact: The problem hits all in the pocketbook. Westmoreland County Judge Alfred Bell hears dozens of cases a week on retail theft and said 90 percent are related to drugs.
Myth: Addicts choose their fate and deserve what they get.
Fact: Many begin addiction by being prescribed pain relievers for health issues.
Myth: Most abused prescription medication is obtained through "doctor shopping."
Fact: Some 55 percent of all pain relievers obtained by those who have died are gotten for free through others. Many contribute to the issue by leaving prescriptions in medicine cabinets or in drawers where there is easy access by others. Unused meds should be turned in for safe disposal; for a disposal site, visit www.dea.gov or call 1-800-882-9593.
Myth: The overdose death issue is mostly a Western Pennsylvania issue.
Fact: Prescription drug overdose is a national crisis with Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky in the top 11 in the country.
Myth: Better education and stronger consequences will help.
Fact: Tougher drug laws enacted in the past 20 years have been relatively ineffective. Jails are filled with inmates with drug problems. There were four times more prescription pain relievers delivered to doctor's offices and hospitals from 1999 to 2010 in the United States, according to the CDC. Prescription medication is readily available through many different avenues than in years past.
Myth: This drug problem is a _____ problem. (Fill in the blank with your choice of crime, public health, moral, spiritual, legislative, family breakdown, or problem of your choice.)
Fact: This is not a one-dimensional problem and will take change in many areas to have an impact.
-- Compiled by Dirk Matson, director of Human Services, Westmoreland County with data from Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.