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Opioid, cocaine overdoses on the rise in Erie County


Opioid deaths are up in Erie County after multiple years of decline. But that’s not all. County officials are concerned with the rise in cocaine related overdoses.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloincarz said its important Narcan is made available to those who need it, especially with the amount of fentanyl they are seeing spliced in with multiple drugs.


"There are a lot of people who died of an overdose of fentanyl and opioids who really thought they were just snorting cocaine because they've always used cocaine. It's a party drug," Poloncarz said. "Or they use it as the doctor noted by themselves at home, thinking I've done it, no problem. And they die. Because unfortunately, the cocaine supply almost all has fentanyl to some degree in it. Now, it may give a bigger high but the high may be so good that you die. So don't trust your cocaine. You should never use it alone if you use it."


Non-fatal overdoses are also up. Most last year came between the months of May, June and July.


"They don't realize they are now addicted to the substance that is in the cocaine, the fentanyl and so they're using it more often," Poloncarz said. "So we want people to understand that not only is cocaine dangerous in its pure form, with the spike of fentanyl, not only is it dangerous for death, it's become highly addictive to the individuals who may never have considered themselves an opiate user."


Narcan box locations and other resources for those battling addiciton can be found here on Erie County's website.


Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein said they are seeing a more diverse group of overdose victims.


“There are more people of color and more of a middle aged population," Burstein said. "And we also think that has something to do with the (usage) of cocaine. We believe that there are more safe, middle aged people at home. They're alone, either because they're unemployed or because they're working at home, they're bored. They may be using cocaine like a stimulant, like something to do. Something to kill time. Something to help them feel good, self-medicate.”


Burstein emphasizes it doesn't’ matter where you live. Overdoses are a threat throughout the region.


“Almost half are in the city of Buffalo and there's a disparity there because only 28% of our Erie County populations lives in the city of Buffalo," Burstein said. "However, almost as much are in the rural and suburban areas. So this is a problem everywhere. You're not safe because you live in the burbs or rural area.”


37% of opioid deaths in 2020 came from the suburbs. The average age of overdoses are in the late 30s.

You can view Wenesday afternoon's entire press conference here:

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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