August 13, 2021

Oneida County Overdose Response Team Issues Public Health Alert

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The Oneida County Overdose Response Team has issued a public health alert related to an uptick in overdoses and a dangerous trend involving non-opioids drugs containing fentanyl.

The Overdose Response Team reports that four overdoses occurred over a 24-hour time period on August 10, 2021 in Utica, Rome and Durhamville.

Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program data and an Oneida Health Hospital Emergency Department overdose surveillance program investigation showed that there is a persistent issue with drugs such as cocaine, MDMA (“molly”) and methamphetamines being laced with powerful opioids such as fentanyl.

While this issue is prevalent throughout the county, recent reports show a concentration in the western part. In addition, there are growing reports countywide of severe illnesses and overdoses involving synthetic marijuana (“K2,” “Spice” & “fake weed”). In some overdoses, Narcan was successfully administered, indicating that the synthetic marijuana was likely contaminated with fentanyl or another opioid.

“Synthetic marijuana is often contaminated with various manmade chemicals that can compound its dangerous effects, so it is extremely disturbing to see growing evidence that this product, in addition to other drugs, is also being laced with fentanyl,” said Daniel W. Gilmore, Ph.D. MPH, Oneida County Director of Health. “And, it is especially concerning when we know that the main drug responsible for taking lives in our community is fentanyl.”

In 2020, 70 percent of the drug-related fatalities in Oneida County were fentanyl-related. Year-to-date in 2021, over 80 percent of Oneida County’s drug-related toxicology results show the presence of fentanyl.

“Over the last three weeks we have seen several cases of near-fatal overdose in the Oneida Emergency Department,” said Dr. Kirby Black, Director of Emergency Medicine at Oneida Health. “They have required a large amount of naloxone to be revived. The trend we are seeing is that they are people who did not think they were taking an opioid. They thought they were taking synthetic marijuana, cocaine, molly or methamphetamine. Many have been extremely close calls, some requiring admission to the ICU for naloxone drips.”

The Overdose Response Team continues to warn people that taking illegal drugs is dangerous. Those who choose to use them should take advantage of harm reduction services that can reduce risk of dying from an overdose. Contact ACR Health at 315-793-0661 or call 2-1-1 for information and linkage to local treatment and/or harm reduction services, or to find Naloxone.

The Oneida County Overdose Response Team Dashboard can be viewed here:

Oneida County Partners