CAPITAL REGION -- The Capital Region suffered an alarming number of drug overdoses in a 14-hour period from Wednesday night into Thursday morning caused by cocaine that was tainted with fentanyl, area official say.
In a press conference Thursday morning streamed live on Facebook, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden and Rensselaer County Public Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas stated that there were 30 overdoses involving the lethal combination, including two fatalities.
“Something that was unprecedented for all of us and it's exceptionally concerning as we head into a long weekend,” McLaughlin said. “What we saw last night we have never seen around here, and this is a problem that is not an inner-city problem, this is a region-wide problem.”
During the press conference, Wachunas stated that the number included 10 overdoses in Clifton Park.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said he believed that number was lower.
“I can confirm two overnight in our county, but having a hard time confirming 10 in Clifton Park,” Zurlo said in a phone interview. “I'm not aware that there were that many there.
“We're aware of what took place and we’re currently working with our law enforcement partners to determine the source.”
Both Zurlo and Saratoga County Coroner Susan Hayes-Masa confirmed that there were no fatalities from the rash of overdoses overnight, but the situation has become dire.
“We've been pretty consistent since 2013, we range from 18 to 25 [drug fatalities] per year and we're already at that now,” Hayes-Masa said. “We have dealt with fentanyl before, that it's a dangerous addition to any drug, whether it be marijuana or cocaine. To see the magnitude that took place in the last 12, 14 hours overnight is very alarming.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. With the case of the overnight overdoses, the victims apparently did not intend to ingest fentanyl or be prepared for its effects.
McLaughlin made a point to alert the public about the range of victims overnight.
“The deaths that we experienced last night in Troy were devastating, but they weren't your stereotypical drug users,” he said. “These were average people that you pass on the street. It is critical that we get the word out.”
Wachunas said drug overdoses are also on the rise in Rensselaer County.
“This year we have 31 overdose deaths, last year 34,” she said. “At this time last year…12.
“This is a crisis right now when people are recreationally using cocaine, you need to step back and think about it. There is going to be fentanyl in there, most definitely and you really need to think twice about that.”
According to the CDC website, more than 31,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone in a 2018 report.
Rensselaer County is offering fentanyl drug test strips and Naloxone to anyone in need, offered without question. Naloxone counteracts a drug overdose. Fentanyl drug test strips detect whether fentanyl is present in other drugs, such as cocane. Residents can text NARCAN to 21000 and have the materials delivered curbside without question, officials said.
“The fentanyl strips, even though we are not endorsing drug use, it's going to save your life,” McLaughlin said.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.