Onondaga County Health Department Issues Warning—Reports of Fentanyl in Synthetic Marijuana Products Sold Locally

Extreme caution urged heading into the holiday season

ONONDAGA COUNTY, NOVEMBER 21, 2023 – The Onondaga County Health Department (OCHD) issued a warning on Tuesday, November 21, 2023 that fentanyl has been reported to be present in synthetic marijuana (Spike) sold in Onondaga County.

Synthetic marijuana is a chemical mixture used to mimic THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in naturally grown marijuana. The products are sold in many locations, including convenience stores and gas stations. However, they are illegal and have unpredictable and harmful effects.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Kathryn Anderson urges residents to be vigilant. “Synthetic marijuana products often contain harmful substances. Now that we have received reports of fentanyl in some of these products being sold locally, residents must exercise extreme caution as the substances could cause overdose or even death. If you witness someone experiencing an overdose, please call 911 and administer naloxone as soon as possible.”

Warning Signs of Fentanyl Overdose: 

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness or difficulty waking up
  • Inability to speak or be awakened
  • Blue or gray lips and nails
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Seizures

Synthetic marijuana products are sold under a variety of names and packaging, making it crucial for consumers to be aware of the potential dangers associated with their use. The products are also reportedly being marketed as naturally grown marijuana.

OCHD urges those who use substances to test their drugs using fentanyl testing strips (FTS). By testing with an FTS, the person using drugs can make an informed choice about their use by potentially choosing to use a different batch, using less of the current batch, using in the presence of others, and making sure naloxone is on hand. Although the strips do not identify the exact amount of fentanyl present, testing can provide enough time, space, and information for a user to consider the options.

The holidays can be a time of great joy or the hardest time of the year for some people. People often turn to substance use in celebration or to cope with difficult emotions and situations such as family conflict, financial strain, loneliness, grief, and seasonal affective disorder.

With the noted presence of fentanyl in synthetic marijuana and other substances like cocaine and counterfeit prescription pills made to look like Xanax, Adderall, Oxycodone, etc., it is incredibly important that the public exercises caution when using substances. If you or someone you know needs fentanyl test strips or naloxone, they are available at no cost by calling or texting OCHD’s confidential Narcan and Test Strip Request Line at 315-418-5365. Learn more about opioids and overdose prevention here.

The Onondaga County Health Department remains committed to safeguarding the well-being of our community and will continue to monitor and address this situation and other emerging public health threats.