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Three dead as drug overdoses spike over weekend in Buffalo

Nine people in Buffalo suffered a drug overdose – and three of them died – over roughly 48 hours this weekend, Buffalo police said Monday.

Two more fatalities are under investigation as potential overdoses, Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said.

The uptick in overdoses, which started Friday afternoon, prompted police to urge anyone dealing with a drug addiction to call a 24-hour hotline at 831-7007.

“If you are suffering with addiction or if you know of somebody who’s suffering, please make the call,” Rinaldo said. “At least start getting information, and it doesn’t have to result in an overdose.”

Some of the overdoses over the weekend involved heroin, but others involved different narcotics, he said. Police did not specify the substances found at the scenes.

Rinaldo did note that federal authorities are finding fentanyl – an extremely potent opioid – being mixed with other narcotics, like cocaine.

Investigators have not conclusively determined whether the drugs used in the weekend’s overdoses – which started being reported late Friday afternoon – were linked in any way, nor if there may have been a “bad batch” of one narcotic.

No arrests have been made, Rinaldo said.

Town of Tonawanda police also reported a fatal drug overdose over the weekend, a spokesman said.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said this kind of cluster of overdoses was more common in prior years.

"Now we’re thinking this is unusual, but a year ago, two years ago, this is what we were seeing every weekend," she said.

The Medical Examiner's Office has recorded seven suspected overdose deaths so far this year in Erie County.

There were 130 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in the county for 2018, with more suspected cases still being investigated. Burstein estimates the total for last year would wind up below 200, which would bring the annual death total to a four-year low.

"We are making headway," she said. "There are going to be occasions where we are going to see these spikes."

From Friday though Sunday, the Medical Examiner's Office recorded five suspected overdose deaths.

Burstein last held a news conference about overdose deaths during a spike in March 2017, when seven suspected overdose deaths were recorded in a 24-hour period, she said.

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