New York State Department of Health Warns New Yorkers About Prevalence of Fentanyl in Opioids, Cocaine, and other Illicit Drugs

With End of Year Gatherings and Celebrations, New Yorkers Urged to Be Safe, Understand Signs of Overdose, and Take Advantage of Life Saving Medication

Standing Order Makes Life-Saving Naloxone Medication Available to New Yorkers Without a Prescription; State to Purchase Narcan for Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Outside of NYC

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 9, 2022) – The New York State Department of Health urges New Yorkers to understand the risks associated with illicit drug use, as deadly fentanyl continues to be found in a wide variety of drugs, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and illicitly manufactured pills, some of which are meant to mimic benzodiazepines, Molly/MDMA and prescription pain killers.

"Fentanyl has made street drugs far more dangerous. Even casual or occasional drug use can result in an overdose or death," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "We all need to be able to recognize an overdose and have access to naloxone, the medication which reverses opioid overdoses and saves lives. I carry naloxone with me in case I come upon someone who needs it, and anyone with a loved one they are concerned about being exposed to Fentanyl should consider doing the same."

Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than heroin and has contributed to an increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years. Most overdose deaths in New York State now involve fentanyl. The Department is also warning the public about the presence in the drug supply of xylazine, a powerful animal sedative that can contribute to overdoses, particularly when it is combined with fentanyl or other opioids.

The Department continues to alert the public to these dangers through social media messages and other outlets, encouraging New Yorkers to recognize the signs of overdose and to take advantage of the resources available through the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program.

Opioid overdose signs include unresponsiveness; unconsciousness; slow, shallow, irregular or absent breathing; and bluish color to lips or fingernails. The signs for an overdose from methamphetamine or cocaine include agitation, chest pain, irregular or stopped heart, high body temperature and seizure.

Among the steps taken by the Department to address the growing opioid overdose crisis is a statewide pharmacy standing order for naloxone, making it easy for anyone to obtain this life-saving medication without prescription. Naloxone is easily administered—generally with a spray up the nose--and blocks the effects of opioids allowing a stricken person to resume normal breathing. Through the State Health Department's Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program (N-CAP), insured individuals have co-payments of up to $40.00 covered by the State resulting in no cost or lower out-of-pocket expenses for most people.

In November, the Department entered into a five-year contract for the purchase of Narcan™, a naloxone nasal spray which will be provided at no cost to Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs (OOPPs) registered with NYSDOH and located outside of New York City. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene furnishes naloxone to OOPPs within NYC.

The OOPPs train non-medical individuals in overdose recognition and response, with that repone including the administration of naloxone. The public can find an OOPP near them by going to this directory site. Some programs have scheduled trainings which may be found at on this calendar. Some OOPPs—including all of the State's Syringe Exchange Programs—supply test strips which may be used to identify the presence of fentanyl.

The State is about to significantly enhance overdose preparedness on college and university campuses through legislation recently signed by Governor Hochul. The new law will require public colleges in New York to maintain a supply of naloxone available to Resident Assistants, all of whom will be trained in its use.

Anyone encountering an overdose should call 911, whether they have naloxone or not, as an overdose is a medical emergency.

Individuals who have naloxone should administer it as soon as possible, consistent with the manufacturer's guidelines as well as these simple instructions: How to Use Narcan Nasal Spray for an Opioid Overdose.

Individuals who use opioids or other substances are also encouraged to create a safety plan, such as one developed by the Department (English, Spanish).

New Yorkers looking for support with their substance use, or whose loved ones are seeking help, can find help and hope by calling the State's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).