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Upstate New York Poison Center Demonstrates Commitment to Families on National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day

Image of pills on a table

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (August 21, 2023) –
The Upstate New York Poison Center is proud to announce its dedicated efforts in raising awareness about the dangers of fentanyl on the upcoming National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day on Monday, August 21, 2023. As a vital resource for communities in Upstate New York, the Upstate New York Poison Center remains steadfast in its mission to educate families and individuals about the dangers of fentanyl and provide essential guidance in times of crisis.

The Upstate New York Poison Center plays a crucial role in safeguarding public health by providing expert assistance and guidance in cases of opioid poisoning and overdoses. As a trusted resource, our center offers immediate and round-the-clock access to Specialists in Poison Information (nurses and pharmacists). Our extensive knowledge and experience allow us to offer vital information, guidance, and support to both the general public and healthcare providers when dealing with opioid-related emergencies. Our center aids in assessing the severity of the poisoning, recommends appropriate steps for treatment, and guides healthcare providers in managing overdose situations. Through our dedicated helpline, we serve as a lifeline for those facing opioid-related crises, helping to save lives and mitigate the impact of this public health concern.

“Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid. It poses a significant national health issue, contributing to a concerning rise in opioid-related deaths nationwide,” says Jeanna Marraffa, PharmD, Clinical Director of the Upstate New York Poison Center, “Similarly, our poison center based in Syracuse has observed an increase in poison-related calls involving fentanyl and its derivatives. We recognize the urgent need for proactive measures to combat this epidemic.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S. There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illegally made fentanyl. Both are considered synthetic opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain. However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdoses are linked to illegally made fentanyl.

Families, please be aware of the possibility that loved ones could buy a pill(s) off the street and think they are getting one type of drug and be unaware of what is truly in it. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration reminds everyone that “One Pill Can Kill.” The DEA says, “Never trust your own eyes to determine if a pill is legitimate. The only safe medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.” Talk to your children and teens about never buying pills from an unknown person or an unlicensed provider.

The Upstate New York Poison Center encourages all families who have any opioid prescriptions, including fentanyl, in their home to keep the pills in their original container and keep the bottle(s) up high and out of reach and sight of children and teens. If you have any fentanyl patches, fold them in half before disposing. We strongly encourage the use of a lock box for all prescription and non-prescription medicines.

If a loved one or patient is suspected of swallowing/inhaling a drug that might contain fentanyl:

  1. If the person is not breathing, call 911
  2. If you have access to Naloxone (Narcan), administer
  3. If the person is awake and breathing and you have questions, call us at 1-800-222-1222, or save our number, before you need us.

In commemoration of National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day, the Upstate New York Poison Center has several initiatives aimed at empowering the community:

  1. Educational Materials: Our poison center provides free educational materials, including brochures, posters, magnets, pencils, etc., for families, community centers, schools, and healthcare facilities throughout our 54-county coverage area. These resources serve as valuable references to help you remember our number and valuable information that can keep loved ones safe.

  2. Healthcare Providers: Our toxicologists provide fast, free professional expertise in recognizing the signs of fentanyl exposure and steps to take in case of an emergency by calling 1-800-222-1222. We also provide expertise with real-time surveillance of trends; we help identify new trends and provide awareness and education. At Upstate Medical University, we currently provide medication lock boxes to young children admitted and discharged with an opioid prescription to help prevent unintentional poisoning in children. If you are a healthcare provider and would like a presentation on emerging street drugs, including fentanyl, please reach out to us at 315-464-7078.

  3. Other Resources Available: Besides our poison center, there are several groups that are also working hard to help families and healthcare providers during this opioid epidemic. 

    Crouse Health’s Addiction Treatment Services serves Central New York and five surrounding counties with individualized substance use disorder treatment, both inpatient and outpatient, for adults age 18 and up, and their families.

    - Helio Health promotes recovery from the effects of substance use and mental health disorders and other health issues. Detoxification and Inpatient services for adults are available as well as outpatient services for children/adolescents and adults.

    Matters Network currently offers free Fentanyl test strips, Xylazine test strips, and Naloxone. MATTERS began as a Buffalo-based electronic referral platform to connect patients to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs). Today, their electronic referral platform efficiently refers patients with opioid use disorder from emergency departments, OB/GYN offices, correctional facilities, inpatient units, pre-hospital settings, etc. to community-based clinics across New York State

    - New York State Office of Addiction Services and Support provides free Naloxone and test strips to help prevent overdose deaths and save lives.
    - HOPELINE™, created by the Center for Suicide Awareness, is a text-in (versus voice call-in) free emotional support service providing hope, help, and support when it’s needed most. HOPELINE™ serves anyone in any type of situation providing them access to free.

    - SAMHSA’s National Helpline,1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Don’t forget, Monday, August 21, 2023, we stand united against the fentanyl crisis and make a commitment to work towards a safer, poison-free future for our communities.

In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

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About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.