BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Heroin use is high among young people and health officials in Erie County say some recent batches of the drug may be mixed with another ingredient, and it is causing overdoses.
News 4 obtained a confidential memo from the Erie County Department of Health that alerts first responders to increased cases of heroin overdoses. The memo notes that some overdoses may be due to a combination of fentanyl and heroin.
County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says this mixture poses a severe risk for a heroin user.
"Both heroin and fentanyl can cause the same depressive effects, depressing your heart rate, your blood pressure, your ability to breath," Dr. Burstein said.
Many of these heroin users, Dr. Burstein says, are teenagers.
Erie County Sheriff's Detective Alan Rozansky says heroin users are desperate for their next fix and can't always be sure what they're purchasing. He also says heroin use isn't only a citywide problem. Rozansky says it impacts all of western New York.
"There has been overdoses that were heroin but we definitely have an increase in the rural areas," Rozansky said.
The detective says some suburban kids are coming to the city to buy drugs. He mentioned Riverside specifically, where nearly two dozen suspected users and dealers were recently arrested. Heroin was among the drugs seized.
Dr. Burstein said, "Obviously people are not aware of the seriousness of the problem. There's heroin mixed with fentanyl, there's heroin mixed with a lot of other substances but they have to be aware that the heroin mixed with fentanyl is a potential here that they really need to take action immediately to save somebody's life."
She says anyone who has overdosed on heroin needs to be on life support and given narcan, a medication that can reverse the potential long-term effects of the mixture.
Dr. Burstein says there has also been an increase in teens contracting blood-borne illnesses, like Hepatitis C and HIV, because kids are sharing needles.
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