January 5, 2022

The Oneida County Overdose Response Team has issued a spike alert message for an increase in heroin and opioid overdoses and a public health alert regarding minors overdosing on marijuana and pills.


The Oneida County Overdose Response Team has issued a spike alert message for an increase in heroin and opioid overdoses and a public health alert regarding minors overdosing on marijuana and pills.

Through its Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, the Overdose Response Team detected seven overdoses in the last three days, primarily involving heroin and cocaine, which triggered the spike alert.

ODMAP also detected a trend in both intentional and unintentional overdoses involving youths aged 18 and under that included vaping marijuana/THC and ingesting over-the-counter and prescription pills.

Since December 1, 2021, there have been nine overdoses involving minors (three intentional and six unintentional). For comparison, in 2020, there were 10 total overdoses involving minors (eight intentional and two unintentional) and in 2021, there were 25 – a 150% increase. Seventeen of those were intentional and eight were unintentional.

“Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory on the pandemic’s unprecedented impacts on the mental health of youth, and our overdose surveillance data is reflecting that impact in our community,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “We are seeing overdoses from experimentation with marijuana and vaping THC, as well as increases in suspected suicide attempts. It’s apparent that many of our adults and youth are struggling with feelings of helplessness, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide, and may be engaging in harmful coping strategies. We need to be able to recognize these and provide them with the connections and support they need for their health and well-being.”

“We strongly discourage youths and adults from using vape pens, including THC vape pens,” said Dr. Avinash Kambhampati, Assistant Medical Director, MVHS, Faxton/St. Luke’s Campus. “These products often have unknown psychoactive substances within them, and we see in the emergency department wildly unpredictable and dangerous immediate clinical presentations. This is in addition to significant long-term adverse health effects.”

The disruption of day-to-day household routines, as well as pandemic-related protocols, such as reduced in-person interactions may make it more difficult to recognize the signs of child abuse, and/or substance use or mental health issues. Here are some risks to be aware of as wells as signs that someone may be struggling with substance use and/or mental health issues:

  • Marijuana products that contain THC can have health risks regardless of how they are used. Consuming products with high THC concentration can have unpredictable effects and increases the risk of overdose or poisoning because oils and concentrates used in vaping and inhaling THC often have dangerous and highly concentrated forms of THC and may be contaminated with other substances. Mislabeling is a frequent issue with vaping devices with many containing contaminants, including pesticides.

  • Some vaping devices still look like a traditional cigarette or pipe, while others look like pens, USB flash drives, and other high-tech devices or common items.

  • It is impossible to know what illegal street drugs contain. Many drugs like heroin, cocaine and even marijuana, can be laced with other dangerous substances that can cause fatal overdose.
    Some signs of depression and anxiety in youth can be distancing, social withdrawal, lack of interest in activities they once engaged in, feeling sad and down, restless, and fearful. Younger children can be irritable, act out, or can complain of physical symptoms like stomach aches and headaches. These signs may not meet the threshold for a clinical diagnosis, but it’s important to catch them early and intervene before stress escalates and impairs their ability to function.

  • Some warning signs a teenager might be thinking of suicide include: personality changes dramatically, quality of schoolwork going down, problems with a girlfriend/boyfriend, friends or parents; withdrawing from people they were close to; running away from home; abusing alcohol or drugs; appearance changes for the worse; writing about death or talking or joking about suicide, and changes in eating or sleeping habits.

  • For adults and youth, the holidays can brings a large amount of stress and they may look for alternative means like drugs to cope. If you know or suspect someone you love is dealing with a mental health issue or substance use disorder, reach out and let them know help is available. Building strong bonds and relationships provides an important sense of connectedness and support; these connections can be made virtually or in person.

If you suspect that your teenager might be thinking about suicide, do not remain silent and act quickly. Seek professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. If you need immediate help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

If you are aware of concentrated cannabis unlawfully being sold to individuals under the age of 21, please contact the Oneida County’s Sheriff’s Office at (315) 736-8364.

Parents, youths, and anyone looking for information about local mental health and substance use services, can contact the Oneida County Department of Mental Health at (315) 768-3660.