New York state and local health officials are raising concerns over a spike in opioid-related overdoses in parts of central New York and warning the fatalities could spread to other parts of the state.
The rise in deaths is believed to be linked to the powerful opioid fentanyl, which is often added to drugs like heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and illicitly manufactured pills.
In Oneida County, officials pointed to five overdose deaths in August. Three of those fatalities occurred over five days.
The deaths come amid a sharp and record rise in overdose deaths in 2020, an effect researchers and public health officials have coincided with the COVID pandemic.
“Illicit and deceptive drugs made of fentanyl are taking lives at an unprecedented rate and it is being found in any street drug you can name,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente. “Fentanyl has changed the game in a frightening way – it’s a highly toxic and dangerous drug that can take a life in a moment’s notice – three known deaths in just five days is proof of that and it only takes one time.”
Nearly half of overdose deaths statewide are now linked to fentanyl, according to the state Department of Health. State health officials this summer required pharmacies to carry and dispense naloxone, which can be used to counter the effects of an overdose when administered.
That order took effect on Aug. 15.
“Cases of overdose are on the rise in Central New York, but we can make each overdose less likely to be fatal,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “Fentanyl has made all street drugs more dangerous and non-opioid drugs like methamphetamines can be fatal, too. I carry naloxone, just in case. And I urge everyone never to hesitate to call 911.”