Tonawanda News

Local News

May 18, 2013

Down the rabbit hole

(Continued)

In North Tonawanda, a similar breakdown of arrests wasn't available. Acting Chief William Hall said the department sees about 12 drug arrests each month.

Hard, local data on the prevalence of such drugs is scarce. But numbers provided by the Erie County Medical Examiner support theories on the increased role of opiate-based drugs in local overdose deaths.

Jannine Blank, director at the medical examiner's office, provided data showing death from chemical intoxication in general has only risen since the CDC's ominous benchmark in 2010, from 76 such deaths confirmed in 2010, to 125 in 2011 and 105 in 2012.

Specifically in the Ken-Ton area, a further breakdown shows opiates accounted for the greatest number of deaths in each of those years. In 2010, opiate based drugs alone accounted for half of all chemically induced deaths in Ken-Ton, a category also including death from opiates mixed with cocaine (accounting for an additional two deaths) and deaths due to a combination of other chemicals.

In 2011, six in 10 chemically induced deaths were blamed on opiates. In 2012, five deaths were attributed directly to opiates while cocaine and opiates resulted in one death, ethanol and cocaine accounted for one death, one was attributed to Strychine and another that year was laid to a combination of substances.

The history of abuse

Kasprzyk's 25 years with the DEA in Western New York has given him a unique perspective on drug abuse trends in this area, beginning in the 1980s.

"When I started out the drug of choice was cocaine and crack," he said.

At the time he said Colombian cartels were the controlling enterprise in port cities like Miami, with extensive networks to distribute "tremendous amounts" of cocaine throughout the country. At the time, powdered cocaine was the by far the dominant narcotic, while heroin came predominantly from southeast and southwest Asia, and was expensive, at about $25 per dose, and just 3 to 5 percent pure.

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