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Health & Wellness

Officials report significant spike in drug overdoses

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Michael Mroziak/WBFO News
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Local health and law enforcement officials say there has been a noticeable spike in heroin and opioid overdoses in the first quarter of this year.According to the medical examiner's office, 34 deaths in 2015 can be linked to opioid overdoses with 13 more possible cases just in the past week, pending further test results.

"On the federal side, we have already had nine defendants charged with distributing heroin or fentanyl or some combination of it just in the last year or so. If that particular substance causes the death of the user, the punishments can be up to life in prison," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul, at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Hochul encouraged families with loved ones battling opioid addiction to come forward so they can get help for their loved one and catch the dealers who are providing the drugs.

The community is invited to two free sessions next Tuesday and Wednesday, when members of the public will be trained to use the drug known as Narcan, a drug already used by first responders in overdose cases.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says knowing how to use Narcan kits could make the difference between life and death.

"By training members of the community to recognize the signs of an overdose, call 911 and then administer Narcan, I believe that additional lives in our community can be saved," said Burstein.

Those sessions will be held at the Erie County Fire Training Academy on Broadway in Cheektowaga. The Tuesday session begins at 6 p.m. while the Wednesday session will be held at 9 a.m.