Fentanyl overdose deaths plague Long Island

- Long Island's heroin epidemic has been replaced by the growing popularity of an even deadlier drug. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of overdose deaths in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Steven Dodge was hooked on heroin. He has been clean for three and a half years. He is the founder of the S.L.A.T.E. Project.

"I remember saying, 'How did I get here?' I looked in the mirror one time, like, 'What happened?'" he said.

It started with alcohol, then painkillers. After that, he was on a mission to get high. And it didn't matter what he used. He said he knows about 20 people who have overdosed on heroin.

"[Authorities] been testing the heroin that they've been taking off the street, and it is official -- they have found these derivatives of fentanyl in there, making a lethal drug all the more lethal," said Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

The drug fentanyl is the most powerful synthetic opioid commonly used in a controlled setting to treat extreme pain. Chassman said it can be manufactured in a lab and costs less than heroin. It is now the most commonly detected drug in fatal overdoses on Long Island.

"People are taking their normal dosage, quote-unquote, and they're immediately falling out," Chassman said.

Experts say a major indicator that something other than heroin is mixed in the drug is that one dose of naloxone -- a lifesaving serum -- is no longer enough to revive an overdose victim.

Fentanyl has claimed the lives of at least 220 people on Long Island this year alone, according to medical examiners' records. Hundreds of other drug overdose results are still pending.

RESOURCES

The S.L.A.T.E. Project, Steven Dodge, CEO and Founder, Steven@theslateproject.org, (516) 574-9380

Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (24/7 hotline), 631-979-1700 

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