New York state launches opioid awareness campaign after 8 die in 8 days

New York state launches opioid awareness campaign after 8 die in 8 days

Campaign includes media blitz, partnering with NGO to increase access to overdose reversal drug

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - Authorities in the US state of New York have launched an awareness campaign to combat the rising epidemic of opioid addiction after eight people died from overdoses there in the first week of July.

All eight of the fatal overdoses took place in the city of Schenectady, which lies just outside the state capital of Albany. Within the following week, authorities responded to at least two other non-fatal overdoses, according to the Schenectady Police Department.

In order to remedy the dramatic surge in overdoses, law enforcement hosted public information sessions to train individuals on how to administer Naxolone, one of two over-the-counter overdose reversal drugs approved by US health regulators.

Just two weeks later, the Food and Drug Administration approved RiVive, another naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray, for prescription-less sales, adding to the arsenal of overdose-reversal drugs.

On Monday New York Gov. Kathy Hochul rolled out a state media blitz to warn residents of the dangers of addiction, particularly fentanyl, which has fueled much of the increase in overdose deaths nationwide.

Fentanyl is estimated to be between 50 to 100 times as powerful as morphine, and overdose deaths related to the synthetic opioid continue to rise. That includes a 56% increase from 2019 to 2020, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC's provisional data indicates that deaths have further accelerated in the intervening years.

Part of the danger posed by fentanyl is that it is often mixed in with other illicit drugs that are sold illegally, as was the case with the two individuals who suffered non-fatal overdoses in Schenectady.

Police linked those overdoses to a baggie that the individuals collectively purchased that was made to look like cocaine, but which was a combination of amphetamine and fentanyl.

In addition to its media campaign, New York state is partnering with NEXT Distro, a New York City-based non-profit dedicated to combatting overdose deaths, to increase access to Naxolone.

"The impact of fentanyl and the ongoing opioid and overdose crisis continues to be felt by New Yorkers in every community across the state, and we are working around the clock to address this public health emergency,” Hochul said in a statement.

“We need to take every possible step to save lives which starts with educating New Yorkers on the dangers of these substances and the resources available to help all those who have been impacted," she added.

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