HUDSON — The number of suspected overdoses in Columbia County has increased by about 64% this year.
The Columbia County Department of Health said Monday there have been 36 suspected overdoses in the county between Jan. 1, 2021 to April 23, 2021. During this same period in 2020 there were 22 suspected overdoses in Columbia County.
In this period the ODMAP program, an online map of where overdoses are reported, reports the county has had 31 non-fatal suspected overdoses this year which is an increase of 55% when compared to the 20 there was during this period in 2020. There were five fatal suspected overdoses during that period this year and two fatal suspected overdoses during this period in 2020.
The Department of Health said the substance abuse community has faced increased risk during COVID-19 pandemic, and there are many reports about drug supplies being contaminated with fentanyl or other substances.
The drug supply in this area is increasingly containing fentanyl, Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said.
“People are not necessarily expecting fentanyl to be in what they’re using,” Quinn said. “And I think that’s causing the number of overdoses to increase.”
Earlier this month a Hudson man was arrested on felony drug charges after allegedly having dozens of blue pills that appeared to be Oxycodone but were found to contain fentanyl.
Fentanyl and other items are typically added to drugs as a way to make them cheaper, Quinn said. For someone selling drugs it makes their supply go farther instead of using a single product.
The increase in overdoses is likely connected to the pandemic, according to the Columbia County Department of Health. Access to treatment options such as in-person meetings has been more difficult and there had been an increase in isolation during this time.
“There are some meetings and things that are starting to come back to in-person now,” Quinn said. “That’s been a slow process. I think there’s a certain element that has still been contributing to that, with people having to distance and not attend their usual methods of support.”
fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used for treating severe pain, and it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
The CDC reports in 2018 there were more than 31,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) in the United States, which is higher than any other type of opioid. From 2017 to 2018, the CDC said death rates involving synthetic opioids increased by about 10%.
Call the state Never Use Alone Hotline and someone will stay on the phone with you and can call 911 if needed. The Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-997-2280. The Department of Health also advises making sure you have access to Narcan. Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medication designed to quickly reverse opioid overdose. The National Institute on Drug Abuse said it is an opioid antagonist which means it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids and can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.
“Although not everybody agrees with Narcan, some people say it’s enabling, but we look at it as if somebody can be revived with Narcan it gives us a chance to continue to have a conversation about what getting help looks like,” Quinn said. “If we get people to carry and use Narcan, that’s a big part of keeping people alive.”
If you need Narcan, you can text NARCANKIT to 21000 and a Greener Pathways peer advocate will connect with you about getting Narcan.
The New York State Department of Health strongly urges calling 911 if a person is overdosing. Signs of an overdose are an unconscious person who cannot be awakened, not breathing or slow breathing, making gurgling sounds or if their lips are blue or grayish color.
“The biggest thing we’re encouraging is that people reach out to support,” Quinn said. “Wether that’s Greener Pathways, or Twin County Recovery Services, or other providers who can help with addiction services. And to carry NARCAN,
Help is available by calling Greener Pathways at 518-291-4500 or text to 518-822-7437, Twin County Recovery Services Columbia Clinic at 518-828-9300 or Greene Clinic at 518-943-2036 or Columbia County Pathways to Recovery Helpline at 877-467-3365.