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Fentanyl still leading cause of overdose deaths

Opioid related deaths continue to drop in Erie County but fentanyl is still the leading cause of those deaths.

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Erie County Health Commissioner has numbers to prove that opioid related deaths are on the decline.

"We have seen a significant downtick in the number of opioid related deaths in Erie County," said Erie County Health Commissioner, Gale Burstein. "Last year in 2017 we brought our overdose death numbers down from 301 in 2016, to 251 in 2017. Now we are hoping we are on track to have a number even below 200."

As of October 24, 2018 there have been 122 confirmed opioid related deaths with 53 cases still pending. The majority of those deaths are related to fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid.

"So far in 2018, about 80% of our opioid overdose death victims have had a positive toxicology screen for fentanyl. Whereas about 25% have had a positive toxicology screen for heroine," said Burstein.

"Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, it's also a prescription and people use it for a very powerful pain relief. When it's made illicitly it's available in these salts and just a couple grains of salt will kill you. It's 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine."

Burstein attributes the decline to the thousands of calls taken on the Erie County Addiction Hotline (716-831-7007), substance abuse clinics and law enforcement training on Nalaxone.

"We still have a lot of work to do and we are not done with the task force, we continue to develop new ideas and new programs to keep people safe" said Burstein.

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