County warns of spike in overdoses

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A spike in overdose cases around the New Year holiday — including four deaths — was issued by the Oneida County Overdose Response Team, which added an “uncharacteristic” rise in cocaine overdoses.

Between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3, officials said there were 18 overdoses reported across Oneida County, including four fatalities. Eight of those overdoses occurred within a 24-hour period between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, officials stated.

“This spike in overdoses and fatalities is of great concern as we continue to simultaneously combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. in a release. “To say that the past 10 months have been difficult is an understatement, and this is especially true for those struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. We must continue to remain diligent and on high alert over the next several months, and do all that we can to prevent additional overdose and death within our community.”

Of the overdoses between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, at least three of them occurred in Rome, and at least one was reported in Utica, according to 9-1-1 call records.

Rome Police spokesperson Lt. Sharon Rood said her agency has not noticed a spike in Rome specifically. She said the department has had one use of Nalaxone since the start of the year to reverse an opioid overdose.

County officials also said there has been an “uncharacteristic” increase in the number of cocaine overdoses. Since the start of December, officials said there were 13 documented cocaine overdoses, which is a large increase from the typical one or two cocaine overdoses a month.

Moreover, authorities said Nalaxone was successfully administered in 11 of the 13 cocaine overdoses, and Nalaxone only works on opioids, of which cocaine is not. Officials said this likely means the cocaine was mixed with an opioid, such as heroin or fentanyl.

Officials warned that users might not be aware that their cocaine has been mixed with an opioid, making it even more dangerous. Officials said drug users should automatically assume that substances like cocaine and methamphetamine have been laced with an opioid.

The county Overdose Response Team suggests drug users stuck up on Nalaxone, more commonly known by the brand name Narcan. The drug is available at local pharmacies and through community-focused organizations around the county. County officials also want to remind users that the state’s Good Samaritan Law protects people from drug-related charges if they have to make a good faith attempt to seek help or call 9-1-1 during another person’s overdose.

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