At least a dozen times this year, medical rescue workers in the county responded to four or more deadly overdoses in a single day, the vast majority involving fentanyl.
In the small working-class city of Clairton, at least six people have died this year in overdoses involving the drug — two on the same street, records show.
The rise in deaths has prompted public officials to call for efforts from law enforcement and other government agencies to battle the crisis, including the legalization in Pennsylvania of the distribution of fentanyl strips — a tool that can alert people to the presence of the drug.
Authorities seized nine guns and more than $40,000 worth of meth from a McKeesport man’s home, according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, all of which he says stems from a new partnership between state and local authorities in the Mon Valley.
Franklin Gribschaw, 42, faces multiple charges of drug possession and drug delivery.
(CNN)The proportion of schizophrenia cases linked with problematic use of marijuana has increased over the past 25 years, according to a new study from Denmark.
In 1995, 2% of schizophrenia diagnoses in the country were associated with cannabis use disorder. In 2000, it increased to around 4%. Since 2010, that figure increased to 8%, the study found.
“I think it is highly important to use both our study and other studies to highlight and emphasize that cannabis use is not harmless,” said Carsten Hjorthøj, an associate professor at the Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health and an author of the study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, via email.
“There is, unfortunately, evidence to suggest that cannabis is increasingly seen as a somewhat harmless substance. This is unfortunate, since we see links with schizophrenia, poorer cognitive function, substance use disorders, etc,” Hjorthøj wrote.
Previous research has suggested that the risk of schizophrenia is heightened for people who use cannabis, and the association is particularly driven by heavy use of the drug. Many researchers hypothesize that cannabis use may be a “component cause,” which interacts with other risk factors, to cause the condition.”
Of course, our findings will have to be replicated elsewhere before firm conclusions can be drawn,” Hjorthøj continued. “But I do feel fairly confident that we will see similar patterns in places where problematic use of cannabis has increased, or where the potency of cannabis has increased, since many studies suggest that high-potency cannabis is probably the driver of the association with schizophrenia.”
Around the world tens of millions of people use cannabis. It’s legal for recreational use in 19 US states and Canada. In these and some other places, it’s also approved to treat some medical conditions.
A Greensburg doctor pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to taking kickbacks, health care fraud and conspiring to distribute controlled substances.
Thomas Whitten, 71, will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV on Dec. 7.
According to prosecutors, Whitten received kickbacks from Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics from May 2013 to November 2015 in exchange for prescribing Subsys, a powerful opioid containing fentanyl. Subsys, which is a liquid that gets sprayed under a patient’s tongue, is only approved for the “management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients” who have developed a tolerance to other pain killers.
However, investigators said Whitten prescribed the drug to patients for whom it was not medically necessary and, therefore, it was not eligible for insurance reimbursement.
Whitten also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute phentermine hyrocholoride and diethlpropion to patients at five weight-loss clinics from November 2017 to December 2019.
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — At least five people are facing federal charges for their involvement in a large cocaine ring that distributed drugs throughout the region, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court, Mikal Davis, James Dotson, Azheem Ellis, Dwight Logan and Timothy Mollet have been charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine.
Agents with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security were assisted by state and local law enforcement as they executed warrants at several locations throughout the city Thursday morning, according to WJAC.
Investigators say the quintet distributed the drugs in the Johnstown and Monroeville areas and beyond.
PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh mother and a man are facing charges after doctors found cocaine in the system of a 6-week-old baby.
Lindsey Satterfield, 38, took her baby to a doctor’s appointment because he kept vomiting. The doctor determined he was a pound underweight from his last appointment.
Police searched the home of Satterfield and Matthew Bell, 43, along Woodbourne Avenue in Brookline.
Inside the home, police found loose pills, stamp bags of heroin, syringes, used crack pipes and scales, according to court documents.
During an interview with police, Bell said that while he and Satterfield used crack cocaine last week, the baby was sitting in his baby swing in the living room.
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He said both he and Satterfield touched the baby after touching the crack cocaine and the crack pipe, according to the criminal complaint.
Bell further said he assumed that is how the baby tested positive for cocaine. Both Satterfield and Bell were taken to the Allegheny County Jail. Both are facing several charges, including endangering the welfare of children and aggravated assault.
The baby was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent tests to determine the cause. It was during a regular urinalysis that cocaine was discovered in his system. The baby was admitted to the hospital.
Authorities in Southern California have seized more than 16 tons of marijuana worth an estimated $1.19 billion, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said Wednesday. The 10-day sting is the largest eradication of illegal marijuana cultivations in the history of the department.
The operation, which began on June 8, resulted in 22 felony arrests, 109 misdemeanor arrests, and 19 arrests from water theft enforcement teams, officials said. More than 200 locations were served with search warrants. Nearly 375,000 marijuana plants and 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana were seized, along with 65 vehicles, 180 animals and $28,000.
(CNN)A cruise ship’s security services discovered 69.5 pounds of cocaine on board the vessel last week and turned over the haul to US Customs and Border Protection officers upon docking at a Florida port, CBP said in a statement.
Cruise officials alerted CBP officers assigned to Port Everglades seaport that a vessel inspection had found garbage bags with brick-shaped packages in a void space of the ship.
On June 6, CBP officers met the cruise ship and security team during a maintenance stop at Port Everglades, and the packages of white powder tested positive for cocaine, CBP said.
The CBP’s Advanced Tactical Cargo Enforcement Team performed a “thorough inspection” of the ship and did not find any other contraband, the agency said.
Washington — The wife of notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges that stem from assisting her husband run his multi-billion dollar criminal empire.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, entered her plea during a hearing Thursday at the federal district court in Washington, appearing in person before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras and wearing a green prison uniform and white mask. Speaking through a Spanish translator, Coronel Aispuro told the court she is pleading guilty to all three criminal charges related to her involvement in her husband’s sprawling drug enterprise.
WOLF CREEK TWP., Pa. — Two Los Angeles, California residents are facing serious drug charges in Mercer County after more than 60 pounds of cocaine and fentanyl were found in their vehicle during a traffic stop.
The incident occurred on Interstate 80 in Wolf Creek Township on Wednesday, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.
Police said the vehicle was pulled over for traffic violations, and during the investigation 29 kilograms, or 63.8 pounds, of cocaine and fentanyl were found in hidden compartments within the vehicle.
Alvaro Elenes, 44, and Gabriel Garcia, 26, both of Los Angeles, California, were arrested and are being held in the Mercer County Jail on $500,000 bail each. They were both charged with felony drug charges.
The both are scheduled for preliminary hearings on June 16.
A DUI traffic stop on I-95 in Henrico County early Saturday, May 22, netted 5 pounds of crack cocaine and 25 pounds of marijuana
HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A state trooper netted a massive cache of drugs when he pulled over a drunk driver along Interstate 95 in Henrico County early Saturday morning, according to Virginia State Police.
Trooper J. Rivera stopped a car he clocked at 94 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-95 north near the exit for Chamberlayne Avenue, state police officials posted on Facebook.
When the trooper pulled over the driver around 1 a.m., he found 5 pounds of crack cocaine and 25 pounds of marijuana inside the vehicle.
Troopers said 36-year-old Sohail Farooque of Chester was arrested on DUI and illegal drug charges.
Sen. Chuck Schumer said that he would be introducing a marijuana bill “shortly,” one that would not only legalize the drug but would expunge past records.
“Here’s the immediate time frame,” the New York Democrat told podcast host and former South Carolina representative Bakari Sellers. “The three people working on a comprehensive bill are myself, Senator [Ron] Wyden and Senator [Corey] Booker, and we will be introducing our bill shortly.”
“It is not just legalization but a deal for the injustices of the past expungement of the records making sure that the money that’s made from marijuana goes to the communities, communities of color, poor people communities, that have paid the price for this ridiculous scheduling of marijuana,” Schumer said.
“We’re going to get some support from the right on this, we hope,” Schumer continued. “It’s going to take a little while, we’re going to need a mass campaign, but there’s real excitement in the country to do this right now.”
Porto Alegre, Brazil (CNN)Twenty-five people, including one police officer, were killed in a police anti-drug raid in a slum on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, according to state police, despite a Supreme Court order banning such operations other than in “absolutely exceptional” circumstances during the pandemic.
Human rights groups and academic researchers say the widely criticized raid in the Jacarezinho favela was among the deadliest operations in the history of Rio de Janeiro, a state of 17 million that in 2020 alone tallied 1,239 people killed by the police, according to the state government’s Institute for Public Security (ISP.)
In a press conference late Thursday, a spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police said the purpose of the operation was to prevent drug traffickers from forcing minors to join gangs. “We went to that community to guarantee the rights of that population that lives under the dictatorship of drug trafficking,” Felipe Curi, director of the General Department of Specialized Police said.
According to the Civil Police, 200 officers took part in the operation authorities said followed months of investigation and aimed to prevent drug traffickers from forcing minors to join gangs. The raid led to the arrest of six people and the seizure of 20 guns, in addition to what the police called “abundant amounts of drugs.”
Westmoreland County detectives and state troopers used a tip from an informant to intercept a tennis ball-size package of raw heroin Thursday as it was delivered to Hempfield from Michigan, according to court documents.
Three residents from Eastpoint, Mich. — Percy Harper, 33, Jessica R. Walilko and Carlos E. Wade, 33 — were arrested on charges of possession, manufacturing and delivery of a controlled substance filed by county detectives after the 9 p.m. operation in the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn Motel off Route 30.
State police arrested a Loyalhanna Township couple early Wednesday after shutting down what they called a methamphetamine lab at the couple’s home in rural Westmoreland County. Brian Miller, 51, and Jennifer Lynn Williams, 53, are charged with operating a methamphetamine lab, possession of a controlled substance, and possession with intent to deliver.
preliminary hearing on the new charges is April 19.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer really likes to talk about weed.
Schumer has been making waves on cannabis policy since he first introduced a bill to legalize marijuana in April 2018. It was part of his pitch for voting Democrat in the 2020 election, and now — with the majority in hand — he is putting together new federal marijuana reform legislation with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
This week, Schumer’s home state of New York legalized marijuana use for adults, after years of failed efforts. More than 40 percent of Americans now live in states that have embraced full legalization.
President Joe Biden has been a conspicuous outlier among Democrats when it comes to supporting marijuana legalization. But Schumer said Biden’s reticence won’t deter the Senate from taking aggressive action to loosen federal restrictions.
A Monessen man was arrested Saturday in Rostraver after state police said they found him in possession of a gun and drugs, according to court papers.
Rashawn Ford, 25, is charged with drug possession, weapons violations and other offenses.
State police said they pulled over a car with an expired registration that was headed north on the Vance DeiCas Memorial Highway in Rostraver at 5 p.m. While talking to the driver, identified by police as Ford, troopers noticed numerous empty prescription pill bottles lying on the floor of the car, according to court papers.
Investigators in court papers referenced recent violence and drug activity in the Monessen and Donora area as a factor in the decision to ask him to step out of the vehicle. Troopers said they found 50 bricks of suspected heroin and a loaded pistol in Ford’s pants. Three more bricks and three bundles of drugs were seized from his jacket pocket, according to court papers.
More than half a ton of marijuana with a street value upwards of $8 million was discovered by a sharp-nosed police dog during a routine traffic stop in northwest Indiana.
The incident occurred at approximately 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, March 16, when an Indiana State Police trooper stopped a van for a moving violation near the town of Lowell, Indiana, about 50 miles southeast of Chicago, according to a statement released by the Indiana State Police.
The officer approached the vehicle with police to speak with the driver — later named as 31-year-old Christopher S. Colburn from McKinleyville, California — which subsequently led to an investigation of the exterior of the vehicle, including a canine sniff, that caused the officer to ask about what was inside the van.“
During that search, troopers discovered 38 large boxes and 6 black garbage bags.,” said the Indiana State Police. “The boxes were wrapped in black plastic wrap. Inside the boxes contained a total of 1,264 individually sealed bags, each weighing approximately 1.5 lbs., and contained a green plant material. A field test of the content revealed it to be marijuana.”
Jason Michael Thomas, 31, of Derry, is charged with drug possession and contraband.
Detectives said Thomas was being processed at 1:20 a.m. Sept 15 at the Hempfield jail prior to arraignment on charges stemming from a domestic assault in a vehicle filed by North Huntingdon police. He was carrying his shoes and walking to a cell when authorities said he dropped a bundle of stamp bags.
The emerging drug contains two highly-potent highs, fentanyl and etizolam, and has been linked to a string of drug deaths in Canada.
Fatal overdoses are more likely to occur after using benzo dope because the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, is not effective against benzos.
Benzo dope, also known as ‘purple heroin’, is most commonly dark purple, blue and orange, but it has been found to be other colours.
Drug forensic experts in British Columbia found that in October last year one in six (16 percent) of fentanyl deals were cut with benzodiazepines – a type of drug not usually found cut into opioids – compared to five per cent last January and zero before 2019.
Authorities in Canada were first alerted to benzo dope when health workers noticed a cluster of 30 “atypical” overdoses over two weeks in Vancouver in April 2019, where drug users were not responding to naloxone. A warning about the new drug combo was issued by Vancouver Coastal Health.
The combination of benzos and fentanyl causes prolonged loss of consciousness, profound respiratory depression and amnesia. In January, half of the 165 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in British Columbia – most of which involved fentanyl – also involved benzos, compared to only 15 percent in July last year. Last year was the deadliest year on record for overdoses in British Columbia, the epicentre of Canada’s drug death crisis.
A Westmoreland County Prison inmate is accused by county detectives of swallowing four stamp bags of suspected heroin she had in her cell after being committed there earlier this month, according to court papers.
Elizabeth June Cramer, 35, of Greensburg, is charged with contraband and tampering with evidence.
A fifth stamp bag recovered in Cramer’s cell by corrections officers was marked “Chucky,” which has been linked to drug overdoses and deaths around the region, according to court papers.