Suffolk County Legis. Kara Hahn joined treatment providers and grieving Long Island families who have lost loved ones to fatal overdoses to issue a holiday message Tuesday about the dangers of fentanyl and the potential for a surge in drug fatalities during the winter months.
Hahn (D-Setauket) and other speakers at a news conference in Port Jefferson warned that many people turn to drugs and alcohol to manage the stresses of the season and the gloom of the winter months. Fentanyl, a cheap and deadly synthetic opioid responsible for most of the fatal overdoses on Long Island in recent years, makes the risks of drug abuse even greater.
“Too many families already face empty chairs at their table,” Hahn said. “But there is always hope. Recovery is possible and that is what we are here today to talk about … We are here to remind people they do not have to face the struggles of the holidays and these winter months alone.”
Heartbroken mothers spoke about the enduring pain that comes with losing a child to drugs and urged parents to take steps to prevent their kids from being part of the opioid epidemic, which has claimed thousands of Long Island lives since the late 1990s.
“Our kids are being poisoned,” said Carole Trottere of Old Field, whose son Alex died from a fatal overdose in 2018. “Talk to your kids and educate them. Learn how to use Narcan (the nasal spray that reverses overdoses). Talk to them until you are blue in the face and they say you are a pain."
The isolation and depression caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled an increase in overdose deaths across Long Island and nationwide, according to officials in Suffolk and Nassau, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration. A record number of Americans — more than 107,000 — died from overdoses in 2021, according to DEA officials
Many of those deaths were caused by counterfeit Xanax, Adderall and other fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl. Six of 10 counterfeit pills analyzed by the DEA this year contained a lethal dose of the synthetic opioid, the agency said, up from 4 out of 10 analyzed in 2021.
Traffickers also cut heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and other street drugs with fentanyl, according to Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.
“The drug supply is tainted with fentanyl,” Chassman said. “We are losing a record number of Long Islanders, New Yorkers and Americans.”
Many young people don’t believe they are putting their lives at risk when they take a pill from a friend at a party or get drugs from somebody they don’t know, Trottere said. But taking drugs potentially laced with fentanyl is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette, she said.
“Death is permanent,” Trottere said. “I want to really drive this point home to all the young people. There is no do-over or restart button. You don’t get a second chance. It’s forever. And the pain and grief that is left behind with your family is permanent.”
With Kendall Rodriguez and Cecilia Dowd
PLACES THAT HELP WITH SUBSTANCE ABUSE
- Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: Connects individuals struggling with substance abuse and their loved ones with counseling and treatment services. 24/7 hotline can be reached at 631-979-1700. licadd.org.
- Family & Children’s Association: Provides treatment services and mental health counseling, along with peer support/recovery coaching to assist those who have survived overdoses. 516-746-0350, fcali.org.
- DASH hotline and crisis care center: Operated by the Family Service League, DASH (Diagnostic Assessment and Stabilization Hub) provides 24-hour care to people seeking treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders, as well as peer counseling and mobile crisis team. 631-952-3333.