BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Over nearly two weeks, the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office recorded 12 deaths related to suspected cocaine and fentanyl.

As the COVID-19 pandemic plagued the world, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says opioids were a “silent killer.” He, along with Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, spoke during a conference Thursday morning.

In 2016, there were 301 opioid-related deaths recorded in the county. That number dropped to 251 the following year and went down to 156 in 2019. But Flynn says that this year, the county is on track to see more than 300. And so far, there have been 42.

Of the 286 recorded in 2021, 40 percent were associated with fentanyl and cocaine.

The combination of cocaine and fentanyl has been a concern of Flynn’s.

“As District Attorney, I am focused on prosecuting the dealers who peddle these deadly drugs while providing help to those who are struggling with substance use disorder,” he said.

In a previous news release, the Erie County Department of Health said “the local supply of cocaine generally contains fentanyl, a potent opioid. Individuals who use cocaine that contains fentanyl are hit with the ‘high’ of the cocaine, and the ‘low’ of the fentanyl. The effects can stop or slow breathing, and stop the heart, leading to death.”

Since late last week, more than 160 requests for Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, have been received by Erie County through its Text for Narcan program. It’s a potentially life-saving treatment Burstein encourages everyone to keep with them, whether they use drugs or not.

“Know how to use it and when to use it…These days, we know anything can happen,” Dr. Burstein said.

MORE | Here’s how you can get Narcan through Erie County

During Thursday’s conference, Dr. Burstein also told people to never use drugs alone, and to test them for fentanyl. Free test strips are available through the Erie County Department of Health by calling (716) 858-7695.

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