BUFFALO, N.Y. — Eight people may have died from overdoses in Erie County since Saturday afternoon according to the Erie County Health Department

The eight weekend deaths, which still must be confirmed with toxicology from lab testing, could bring the 2017 total to 40 confirmed. There are another 122 other suspected cases which are also pending toxicology results. There were just over 300 overdose cases in Erie County in 2016.

The latest overdose deaths are believed to have resulted from a combination of drugs, such as fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.

“The fentanyl that is being seen in Erie County continues to increase in potency,” said Dr. Burstein, Commissioner of Health. “When we see a spike in suspected overdoses as we have this past weekend, we warn the public as soon as possible that the risk of fatal overdoses has increased due to the street drugs currently in circulation.”

In additional to Erie County, health officials say there were three suspected overdoes deaths in neighboring counties.

Burstein adds “We’re playing Russian Roulette night now with using these illicit drugs purchased on the street, esxpecially in the past couple of days.”

Debra Smith:points out “One of the days being Mother’s Day…it hurts dreadfully to think not only is my son isn’t within us…he was taken but now there’s eight other children that have been taken from this dreadful, horrific drug that we don’t seem to be able to control.”

Debra lost her 26 year old son Nathaniel in 2015 but has emerged as an eloquent advocate with Erie County’s Opiate Epidemic Task Force. 2 on Your Side asked “This hasn’t peaked yet has it?
Smith replied “No…we anticipate at least ten years if not more.”

So we also asked Smith what to do if someone suspects or knows a loved one is addicted?
She said “The very first thing I would suggest doing is get trained in Narcan. Because if this is happening in your home you need to have that lifesaving tool availabkle so that you can try to help the person that you love. Don’t leave the person alone.

She also says “It might be beneficial to handle them with kindness and compassion. Tell them that you understand and that you’re there for them. You want to help them. You realize that they don’t have full control over the situation.”

And finally Smith says “And we strongly suggest that people call the Hotline…that 831 – 7007 number so that they can get partnered with somebody that will help them through medically assisted withdrawal treatment from opiate medication.”

That addiction hotline number whuich is run through Crisis Services is 831 – 7007. You will soon see it publicized in a series of billboards. Again the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force is running a Crisis Services Hotline at 831 – 7007.