UTICA, N.Y. -- In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a reminder of the opioid epidemic. The Oneida County Overdose Response Team on Tuesday issued a spike alert. There have been 20 overdoses in two weeks, two of them, fatal. Two of the overdoses involved synthetic marijuana and cocaine, indicating that some may be unknowingly using a harmful synthetic opioid that could increase the chance of a fatal overdose.
"Could it be more usage with the increased anxiety from this panemic? Absolutely," says Cassandra Sheets, CEO of the Center for Family Life & Recovery. "When people are struggling with addiction, when you add more stress to it, it can compound the addiction. That's just a given."
Sheets says it's too early to know for sure if there's a correlation, adding that seasonal changes also tend to increase usage and even fatalities.
On the front lines of the opioid epidemic, and now, the coronavirus pandemic-law enforcement. First responders now have another risk factor to think about when they have to administer Narcan to a person who is overdosing.
"The person's gonna be down on the ground so you're obviously gonna have to get close to them to administer the Narcan but at the end of the day, that pesron on the ground is someone's mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister. It's our obligation, when I say our, I'm talking whether it's law enforcement, fire, EMS, whoever's first on the scene, we have to save lives," says Oneida County Sheriff, Robert Maciol.
Sheriff Maciol says his staff has gloves, masks and other protective clothing to use when necessary. And, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, another item soon to be added to their protective gear.
"The other piece of equipment we just received and we're putting those together are the plastic face shields."
Dial 211 or a text “opioid” to 898-211 for help if for help dealing with substance abuse.