Eight people die from suspected overdoses over the weekend in Erie County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Erie county health officials urge people struggling with addiction to get help. At least 11 people have died from a suspected overdose in Western New York since Saturday afternoon.

The Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force told News 4 they are investigating a number of heroin overdoses in Northern Chautauqua County, including in Dunkirk and Fredonia. In two cases, the drug user died from the overdose.

Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said eight people have died of a suspected overdose in Erie County since Saturday. The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office is also investing three suspected fatal overdoses from outside the county. The Health Dept. could not confirm where those three additional cases happened.

Dr. Burstein has a warning.

“There is something dangerous out there, just to alert people if they recently purchased some drugs that they think twice about using it because it could be the last time they use a drug,” said Dr. Burstein.

She told News 4 they believe people are using a combination of drugs, including cocaine, fentanyl and heroin.

“Right now we’re seeing more cocaine, we suspect, than we typically see,” she said.

Dr. Burstein said fentanyl is also becoming more potent.

They are seeing cases where it takes multiple doses of naloxone to revive someone having an overdose. She could not confirm if naloxone was used in the 11 most recent overdoses.

In the first 135 days of this year, 162 people have died in Erie County from a confirmed or suspected overdose.

“Unfortunately we really haven’t slowed down since the beginning of the year,” said Dr. Burstein.

She told News 4 the medical examiners are busier than this time last year.

Lives have also been saved.

“We’ve saved thousands of lives with our naloxone,” she said. “For every one overdose death we’ve probably had three, four, five naloxone saves.”

The county has taken additional steps to prevent overdose deaths, including setting up the 24-hour addiction treatment hotline.

County officials are also training health care providers to be certified to prescribe medication assisted treatment.

“Healthcare providers can actually start them on the dose of medication assisted treatment whether it be methadone or buprenorphine, so they don’t have to go through a painful withdrawal,” said Dr. Burstein.

She said there is a common misconception drug users have to be in complete withdrawal to get the treatment.

“People have to be in very mild withdrawal,” she said.

If someone struggling with addiction needs access to medication assisted, or other treatment, call the 24/7 hotline: 716-831-7007.



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