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Another Erie County warning about fentanyl-laced cocaine and its link to fatal overdoses

The shift to cocaine cut or laced with potentially deadly fentanyl is spurring Erie County prosecutors to step up once again.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Once again the plague of opioid and fentanyl-related overdoses is hitting hard here in Erie County.

Just as health officials try to provide information about the danger and offer help to those struggling with substance abuse, prosecutors are also trying to go after dealers who are using fentanyl in the drugs they sell.

Just as we have seen in recent years, the death rate from overdoses from opioids and other drugs especially those laced with fentanyl has once again tragically climbed after reductions in past years, with 42 so far in 2022 and now a new menace and warning.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said "sadly, since May 13, there have been 12 Erie County residents who have died from suspected cocaine and fentanyl involvement."

She then added this comment in a rather unusual attempt at straight talk.

"Make people aware that the cocaine right now is very dangerous because it is laced with fentanyl," she said. "It's not like the old cocaine that your grandmother used or your mom used to use. It's not from the 70s, 80s, or 90s. This is really dangerous."

The trend shift to cocaine cut or laced with potentially deadly fentanyl is spurring Erie County prosecutors to step up once again. After dealing with it in pills in heroin, they are ready to increasingly go after those who knowingly sell it.

"If you're a cocaine dealer and you are lacing your cocaine with fentanyl, you are going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent by my office, and you will go to jail," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.

Flynn also pointed out "synthetic fentanyl mainly comes from China, and in through Canada and into Buffalo. That's one route as well, so we see it come here from all different  places."

But concurrently they are trying to get help for those addiction issues, which intensified during the COVID pandemic.

"We lost many people due to isolation. Dr. Burstein talked about that," said Cheryl Moore, the Erie County opiate task force director. "During COVID that was our biggest risk factor. People were alone. There was no one there. People are self-medicating, we know. A lot of depression."

That's why they are renewing efforts to offer Narcan to anyone who requests it, as it can be administered to resuscitate someone dying from an overdose. 

And while there are repeat instances where Narcan is used to save someone,  experts say think of it like a chronic disease like insulin for diabetes.

"The behaviors associated with substance use disorder can be kind of crazy," Moore said. "I'll be the first one to say it. I've lost a sister. I've lived this over 30 years. The people are not bad people. We need to link them to care. We need to get them on medication. Wraparound services. Peer support."

The Erie County Health Department is also again offering testing strips to detect the presence of fentanyl, and they are teaming up with bars and restaurants and local businesses to offer Narcan and other information for those who need it.

Businesses can call 716-858-7695.

If you want to obtain Narcan, you can text Erie County at 716-225-5473.  

If you do need additional information, you can call the Buffalo and Erie County Addiction Hotline at 716-831-7007. 

You can also contact Erie County



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