Oneonta police respond to string of drug overdoses

Brenner

The Oneonta Police Department responded to three separate drug overdoses within eight hours Monday, according to Chief Doug Brenner.

The overdoses occurred around 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m., all within the vicinity of Chestnut and Spring streets, Brenner said.

Police responded to another overdose shortly after midnight Sunday, Brenner said, bringing the total to four within 48 hours.

OPD officers administered naloxone, a life-saving drug commonly known by the brand name Narcan that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, to three of the victims, Brenner said, and a bystander administered the drug to the fourth victim before police arrived on scene. 

All four victims were successfully revived and transported to A.O. Fox Hospital, Brenner said.

Brenner said the overdoses could likely be attributed to a “bad batch of heroin,” possibly one laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

“When the concentration is off, that’s when there are problems,” Brenner said. “Obviously the stuff isn’t regulated very well.”

Brenner reported an uptick in overdoses as compared to this time last year.

“Apparently it’s a very significant national trend,” he said.

Julie Dostal, executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, said there is significant anecdotal evidence supporting the trend.

“All of this is too new for us to have actual scientific evidence,” she said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic as a possible factor contributing to the string of overdoses.

Dostal said several of her peers in addiction treatment, recovery and prevention services from around the state have shared stories of similar upward overdose trends since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

“The consensus is that there is almost uniformly a surge in overdoses,” she said, identifying several possible contributing factors, including disruptions in the routine of a person in recovery caused by COVID-19 protocols and the additional stress caused by loss of employment, housing or a loved one.

“People in recovery tend to have a routine that includes contact with others, such as a 12-step group, one-on-one counseling or group treatment,” Dostal said. “Even though there are services in place to continue those in isolation, everyone knows there’s nothing like face-to-face.”

“The whole world has turned upside down for everybody,” she continued. “Very little is predictable now. When you heap on that stress and anxiety and lack of predictability, it can lead to a relapse or increased use.”

For more information about addiction and recovery services, contact LEAF at 607-432-0090 or visit leafinc.org .

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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