Rise in fatal overdoses stirs concern

Narcan can help to reverse an overdose. File photo

HUDSON — An overdose spike alert was issued for Columbia County after two overdoses occurred within 30 minutes of each another.

The two overdoses in Columbia County were not fatalities, Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said Wedensday.

“One was in the southern part of the county and one was in the Hudson area,” Quinn said.

A number of other nearby counties also reported recent overdoses, Quinn said. At the time the spike alert was issued within the past 24 hours, there were two overdoses in Schenectady County, one in Rensselaer County, one in Montgomery County and one in Catskill in Greene County.

“It is a lot to happen within that short period of time,” Quinn said.

Year-to-date, Columbia County has had 65 overdoses and eight of those were fatal, Quinn said. Over the same time period in 2020, Columbia County had 61 overdoses and five fatalities.

“Even though the overall overdoses are about the same, our larger concern would be the fatal overdoses that have increased,” Quinn said.

The increase in overdoses could be indicative of a contaminated drug supply, Quinn said. A contaminated supply could lead to more fatal overdoses, he added.

“A contaminated supply usually includes fentanyl, which is a lot more deadly than just a regular drug supply,” Quinn said.

In addition to overdoses with opioids, which are more commonly talked about, Quinn said, more overdoses are occurring in people using cocaine, benzodiazepines or “benzos,” and methamphetamine.

“Things that traditionally people are not expecting to be contaminated are being contaminated with fentanyl,” Quinn said. “We try to stress there is no safe drug supply at the moment. As crazy as that sounds, like people shouldn’t do drugs anyway, and that’s the hope is that people will get help, but while they are in active use we want them to be aware things are happening differently from how they usually would.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically used to treat patients with chronic severe pain or severe pain following surgery. It is similar to morphine, but is 100 times more potent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths in the United States, increasing 38.4 percent during the 12-month period ending May 2020.

Greener Pathways encourages anyone who is actively using drugs to use safely, and always assume the supply is contaminated. Drug supplies can be tested for fentanyl using fentanyl test strips. If you are in Columbia or Greene county and need Narcan or fentanyl test strips, Greener Pathways recommends texting NARCANKIT to 21000 or TESTSTRIPS to 77948.

If someone you know experiences an overdose, call 911 immediately. You can be protected by the Good Samaritan Law. Help is available by calling Greener Pathways at 518-291-4500 or text to 518-822-7437, Twin County Recovery Services Greene Clinic at 518-943-2036, Columbia Clinic at 518-828-9300, Columbia County Mental Health Center at 518-828-9446, Greene County Mental Health Center at 518-622-9163, Mobile Crisis Assessment Team at 518-943-5555, Columbia Greene County Pathways To Recovery Helpline at 877-467-3365. In an emergency, call 911.

An overdose spike alert was issued for Columbia County in July when there had been two previous overdose incidents within a 30-minute period. They were non-fatal heroine overdoses Quinn had said previously.

Columbia County saw a 46.1% increase attributable to an opioid pain reliever from 2016 to 2017 according to the state Department of Health opioid report from that year. Columbia County ranked 12th in New York state for opioid emergency department visits with 51 in 2017. They had 45 heroin overdose emergency department visits.

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