Pubdate: Fri, 11 Mar 2016
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The Buffalo News
Author: Lou Michel


In the first 10 days of March, heroin and other opiates are believed 
to have claimed as many as 10 lives in Buffalo. But that's only a 
portion. Since the beginning of the year, city detectives have 
determined at least 25 individuals died from overdoses.

"We are at epidemic levels and there is no end in sight," Buffalo 
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said Thursday. "Sadly, it is 
probably going to get much worse before it gets better."

But the epidemic goes beyond Buffalo.

"We continue to see high numbers of suspected opioid deaths coming to 
our Medical Examiner's Office," Erie County Health Commissioner Gale 
R. Burstein said Thursday.

She urged residents to dispose of unused prescription opioids at area 
dropoff boxes.

At the current pace, fatalities from opiates across Erie County could 
by year's end exceed the number of fatal overdoses in 2015. It is 
estimated that when all of the 2015 toxicology tests are completed, 
the opiate epidemic will have claimed 264 lives.

That would be more than double the 128 overdose deaths from the previous year

In the second week of February, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, 
Burstein and federal authorities warned drug addicts that a "hot 
batch" of heroin believed to have been spiked with fentanyl was 
taking lives. Twentythree people died from opiate overdoses over an 
11-day period that started Jan. 29.

There were signs of the impending epidemic a decade ago, said Anne 
Constantino, head of Horizon Health Services, one of the region's 
biggest providers of drug treatment and mental health services.

"I don't expect that we are quickly going to bend the curve," 
Constantino said. "Ten years ago, we were suddenly seeing young 
people coming into treatment not for alcohol abuse or marijuana, but 
for serious addictions to prescription opioid medications."

Another factor is contributing to the deaths, said Dr. Ann Griepp, 
medical director for behavioral health management at Univera 
Healthcare. Addicts who are in treatment and later have a slip return 
to the same drug consumption level where they.left off.

But because of the temporary abstinence, she said, their bodies lack 
the tolerance for the previous dosage and it proves lethal.

The health commissioner also urged residents seeking treatment for 
pain to turn down opioid medications and instead request high-dosage 
ibuprofen, as a way of avoiding the highly addictive medications and 
bringing them into the home.
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