Nearly two dozen people overdosed on opioids in Suffolk County in just two days, Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said Saturday — a sharp increase that has police searching for the drug dealers behind the overdoses.
At a news conference at the First Precinct in West Babylon, Sini said the uptick during the past two days is “almost a 60 percent increase in what we’re used to seeing.”
Twenty-two people overdosed on heroin, prescription pain medicine, fentanyl or a combination of the three in the past 48 hours, Sini said — including a fatal overdose in Elwood.
Suffolk police said they are now looking deeper into who is supplying the drugs and where they are coming from. He said there is no particular area of Suffolk that has become a hotbed for opioid overdoses and all seven police precincts are experiencing the uptick.
“We have looked at each overdose and collected evidence, followed up with witnesses and are investigating drug dealers in the region who we believe are selling,” Sini said.
Police ask anyone with information to contact them at 631-852-COPS or 631-852-NARC.
Opioid addiction continues its grip on Long Island, even as advocates try to prevent the epidemic from growing.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has caused deaths in record numbers nationally, is sometimes mixed with heroin. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin alone, officials have said, and comes in numerous forms.
Anthony Rizzuto, founder of Families In Support of Treatment, a nonprofit that helps families with loved ones battling addiction, said one dose of the drug can be fatal.
In 2016, overdose deaths in Nassau and Suffolk counties approached 500, a record, according to an April report by county medical examiners. Fentanyl was linked to more of those deaths than any other drug — of 303 Suffolk County deaths, 171 were related to fentanyl, double the 2015 count.
“We want people to be aware of the risk they’re taking by taking these substances,” Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Dr. James Tomarken said at the news conference.
Sini said Long Island fatal overdose cases could be much higher, but luckily dozens of emergency medical technicians have treated people with naloxone, a medication that blocks the effects of opioid overdoses.
The overdoses aren’t just specific to Long Island. Overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death nationally and in New York City, according to New York City’s Health Department.
Sini noted that Long Island has seen a drop in prescribed opioids from doctors, which has helped keep those drugs away from possible abusers. However, once the main source for prescribed pain medicine dries up, people turn to heroin, Sini said.
“This is a historic epidemic that we’re suffering,” the police commissioner said. “This is a serious public health concern.”