New York state and local health officials are raising concerns about an increase in opioid-related overdoses in parts of central New York and warning that casualties could spread to other parts of the state.
The increase in deaths is believed to be linked to the powerful opioid fentanyl, which is often added to drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and illicitly manufactured pills.
In Oneida County, officials noted five overdose deaths in August. Three of these deaths occurred over five days.
Deaths come in between a sharp and record increase in overdose deaths in 2020, an effect that researchers and public health officials have coincided with the COVID pandemic.
“Illicit and fraudulent drugs made from fentanyl are coming to life at an unprecedented rate, and it’s found in every street drug you can name,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente. “Fentanyl has changed the game in a scary way – it’s a very toxic and dangerous drug that can take a life in an instant – three known deaths in just five days is proof of that and it only takes once.”
Nearly half of overdose deaths nationwide are now linked to fentanyl, according to the state Department of Health. State health officials this summer pharmacies are required to carry and dispense naloxone, which can be used to reverse the effects of an overdose when administered.
This order came into effect on August 15.
“Overdose cases are on the rise in central New York, but we can make every overdose less fatal,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Fentanyl has made all street drugs more dangerous, and non-opioid drugs like methamphetamines can be fatal as well. I carry naloxone, just in case. And I urge everyone to never hesitate to call 911.”
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