Overdose deaths have spiked in New York City, increasing 41 percent from since 2010, according to new data released by the Health Department.
Opioids, including prescription painkillers, methadone, or heroin, make up over three-fourths of these deaths. On average, at least one New Yorker a day dies from opioid overdose. The highest increases in heroin overdoses in particular came from the wealthiest and youngest groups of New Yorkers.
From 2005-2011, opioid-related deaths surged, quadrupling in Staten Island where the problem has been the most severe. An analysis by the Staten Island Advance found that prescription drugs killed more often than gunshot murders in the borough over the years.
A bright spot in the data shows that beginning in 2012, targeted efforts by the Health Department to educate stakeholders about overdose reversal procedures has helped stem the rise of overdoses in Staten Island overdoses, according to Health Commissioner Mary Bassett. It has now leveled off.
“Though we have seen progress in Staten Island, there is still much more work to be done,” Bassett said in a press release.
Naloxone, a prescription drug, reverses the effects of certain opiods. The Health Department distributes naloxone to syringe access programs and other organizations in kits, teaching first responders and others how to administer naloxone to someone who has overdosed.
“The release of the opioid overdose data was a wake-up call for the community,” said Adrienne Abbate, director of the organization Tackling Youth Substance Abuse, in a press release. Her organization partners with the Health department to teach people how to respond to someone who is overdosing.
Since 2010, more than 400 overdoses in New York City have been reversed by using naloxone.
Wealthy and Young
Overdose deaths in the wealthiest neighborhoods of New York increased the most—nearly 200 percent—since 2013.
While the rise in unintentional overdoses has slowed on Staten Island, it has risen in the other boroughs. The numbers and rates vary every year, but Bronx has remained the borough with the second highest fatal overdose rate, with numbers now matching that of Staten Island’s.
Neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates still have the highest rates of fatal overdoses.
And, as the price of some opioids, especially heroin, has come down, unintentional fatal overdoses among younger New Yorkers has more than doubled.
About 4.8 in 100,000 users aged 15-34 fatally overdosed in 2013, a 129 percent increase over 2010.
And New Yorkers aged 35-54 remain the group with the highest rate of overdose deaths involving heroin.
The Health Department supplies emergency kits with naloxone to a variety of organizations and clinics, but it also encourages individuals to learn how to administer it. New Yorkers can call 311 to learn where to obtain a kit and receive overdose prevention training.
The department has also developed guidelines for prescribing opioids, which have been adopted by 38 emergency departments in the city,
The department is working on initiatives to label opioids to discourage the use of the drugs as painkillers outside of cancer treatment, and to make naloxone available over-the-counter.