The opioid epidemic across America has been progressively getting worse over the last several years. In New York, particularly, fentanyl, heroin, and other addictive opiate drugs are driving the overdose deaths to an all-time high. Fentanyl is commonly mixed with heroin, cocaine and other illicitly-made pills meant to look like sedatives such as Xanax.
On Monday, April 24th, the New York State Senate passed a collection of eight bills designed to help tackle the opioid, heroin and synthetic drug crisis in the state. The measures laid out in this legislation are meant to address the following:
- The many challenges posed by the opioid drug fentanyl and other addictive synthetic substances
- Help improve the dissemination of information regarding the dangers posed by these drugs
- Improve the communication and coordination among health care workers to prevent future opioid abuse and overdoses
A 2016 report from the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli (Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Addiction in New York) revealed that the rate for New York’s heroin overdose deaths equaled or exceeded the rate of overdose deaths across the U.S. every year since 2006. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state of New York saw a 20.4% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015. Nearly all overdoses in the state involve multiple substances, and 83% of overdose deaths up until November of 2016 involved an opioid, according to NYC Health.
Over the span of a decade, from 2005-2014, heroin related overdose deaths grew by nearly 25 times in the state. In 2014, the 1,008 reported prescription opioid overdose deaths was nearly four times the amount recorded in 2005.
The counties with the highest number of deaths due to drug overdose involving heroin and prescription opioids in 2014 included:
- Suffolk County (had highest combined number for deaths related to heroin and opioid prescription drugs)
- Orange County
- Staten Island (highest rate for prescription opiod overdose deaths)
New York health officials predicted more than 1,000 people would die from a drug overdose in 2016. Unfortunately, these numbers are only predicted to increase in 2017, especially as the influx of addictive and dangerous drugs like fentanyl and heroin continues to rise.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 75,000 New Yorkers were estimated to have used heroin from 2013 to 2014.
The rise in deaths related to opioid addiction is a strong indication of the need for increased awareness and treatment. Although there is a downward trend in the non-medical use of prescription opioids in New York, these pills are often one of the reasons may New Yorkers get hooked on harder, more dangerous drugs. Health experts point to certain risk factors for opioid addiction in New York, including:
- Obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies
- Addiction to these prescription opioids, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine increase the risk for heroin addiction
- The drugs are reaching people of all ages and ethnic groups
- The prevalence of heroin in New York exceeded the national average by almost 50 percent, according to DiNapoli
The state of the New York, the federal government, local health and public officials, as well as organizations and individuals in the private sector have all worked for years to combat the distressing statistics posed by opioid addiction. These Eight bills passed on Monday by the State Senate are one more successful step in the fight against this devastating reality.
Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan stated, “The Senate is at the forefront in taking legislative action to combat the state’s heroin crisis and was instrumental in securing $214 million in this year’s budget for measures to prevent and treat heroin and opioid abuse. When combined with the measures passed today and additional initiatives being pursued by our Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, we are enhancing the resources used by law enforcement and treatment professionals to address public health and safety.”
Six of the measures passed are designed to address the increased use of designer and synthetic drug combinations that are not regulated by existing legislation. These are:
- Bill S933: This bill adds new strains of fentanyl to the controlled substance schedule. It also increases the penalties for the sale of an opiate containing any of these fentanyl strains.
- Bill S300: This legislation would make the veterinary drug Xylazine a controlled substance. This substance is often used to enhance dealer’s products, and is often combined with heroin, requiring multiple doses of naloxone to revive overdose victims. Risks include damaged heart function and central nervous system depression, which causes the user to go in and out of consciousness.
- Bill S816: This makes Alpha-PVP, better known as Flakka or “Gravel” a controlled substance. These designer drugs have been known to cause violent outbursts, and other side defects such as nausea, chest pains, increased blood pressure and heart rate, paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts.
- Bill S3518: This bill makes synthetic marijuana like Spice, K2, and Spike 99 Schedule I controlled substances. The bill places criminal sanctions on the synthetic weed, and also makes it a felony to sell such these products to minors and on school grounds. Possession of synthetic marijuana would also be criminalized in an effort to deter law-abiding citizens from using it.
- Bill S2722: This would prohibit the analog substances (chemically similar substances) of scheduled controlled substances. This allows law enforcement to crack down on the ever-changing and evolving variations of designer drugs that are created to skirt around criminal penalties.
- Bill S658: This bill adds a new synthetic opioid called U-47700, known more commonly as “Pink” to the Schedule I opiate list. This dangerous and relatively inexpensive drug is increasing in popularity across the nation and said to be eight times more powerful than heroin.
Two of the measures passed will help to increase awareness and spread information that will help to prevent the abuse of prescription and other drugs, as well as address benefits of health care coordination. They are:
- Bill S2639: This bill requires emergency room and hospital physician to notify the patient’s primary prescriber when the individual is being treatment for an overdose caused by a controlled substance. This measure reinforces the effectiveness of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Registry , as it ensures important medical information is shared among health care providers.
- Bill S2248: This bill will help to aid in the communication and exchange of information with hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers that accept walk-ins and don’t have a regular primary physician. Electronic health records would be maintained on a system which connects to the local regional health information organization. This helps with the prevention of substance abuse as it gives clinics and urgent care facilities the ability to see patient records and whether or not they have a history of drug abuse. These clinics would in turn add to the patient’s chart so the individual’s medical records are on file for any future visits, and they can receive the appropriate care.
Compared to the national average, New Yorkers are much more likely to be admitted to treatment for prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. Those treatment admissions have increased over the past decade, with white males, ages 21 to 30 having the highest rate of treatment admission for the use of both substances.
Many New Yorkers suffer from opioid dependence and could greatly benefit from treatment for heroin addiction, fentanyl dependence and addiction to other drugs. If you are searching for New York addiction treatment centers, you’ve come to the right place. Get Treatment’s directory of accredited drug rehab centers can help you find the program that’s right for you. Our treatment centers for heroin addiction are specially designed to address the particular needs of each patient, providing them with a comprehensive and tailored treatment plan for recovery.