Utica Police have issued a public safety alert as they investigate several overdoses involving synthetic marijuana.

UPD officials believe the individuals had been smoking a synthetic marijuana that contained benzodiazepine - a powerful depressant that results in sedation and hypnosis, often prescribed to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and reduce seizures.

Benzodiazepines include drugs like Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin and Valium.

Police say the victims weren't aware that the synthetic marijuana they were consuming contained the drug. It resulted in the users experiencing slow or labored breathing and near unconsciousness, police said.

UPD's Special Operations Unit tested the substances the users had consumed and found benzodiazepine present, officials said. The investigation into the incidents in ongoing.

Meanwhile, just last week Oneida County issued a public health advisory after seven overdose deaths within a 30-day period. Public health officials believe those incidents involved consumption of drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine that were laced with either fentanyl or xylazine, however, toxicology results on deceased are still pending.

Jim Rondenelli, WIBX
Jim Rondenelli, WIBX


Fatal drug overdose incidents were reported in Utica, Whitesboro, Boonville and Sauquoit.

Oneida County has reported 17 drug overdose deaths thus far this year.

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