According to the New York Daily News, the drug overdose death rate in New York City has skyrocketed by 41% just since 2010, based on data released Thursday by the NYC Health Department.
The rate jumped from 8.2 for every 100,000 New Yorkers in 2010 to 11.6 in 2013, seemingly driven by a rise in heroin and prescription drug abuse.
All in all, 782 New Yorkers died from accidental overdoses in 2013, compared to 541 in 2010.
77% of the deaths involved opioids (either heroin or prescription painkillers), and the death rate from heroin alone doubled over the same period. 420 people overdosed on heroin in 2013, which is more than double the deaths from 2010, which was only 209.
The neighborhoods with the highest heroin death rate were in the Bronx, followed closely by Staten Island. Queens saw the sharpest increase.
Interestingly enough, even though the residents of poor neighborhoods were still most likely to OD on heroin, the rich neighborhoods saw the biggest spike – a huge 195% jump over just 3 years.
However, in places such as Washington and Colorado, overdose deaths have gone down and the rate of painkiller abuse has also gone down, since marijuana was legalized for recreational use.
In New York , recreational marijuana is still illegal, with medical marijuana being very difficult for patients to obtain. In my opinion, this is the reason why people are using these opioids.
When an individual has, say, chronic pain, they will do whatever they have to do to ease that pain. If marijuana is illegal where they live, they will attempt to get painkillers from their physician. If they are successful, their primary care physician will usually only give them pain relief just long enough for their bodies to become dependent on them.
If their physician is afraid of the DEA (and many of them are) and/or at any time suspects that the patient is “drug-seeking” or “doctor-shopping”, they will cut them off from their supply of painkillers. THAT is when people become heroin addicts. If all methods of pain control are denied to the patient, and safe alternatives such as cannabis are unavailable and illegal, what choice do these patients have?
The astounding increase in heroin use/deaths in the richer neighborhoods are because of this very simple fact: People aren’t just trying to get high. They are self-medicating a painful condition that their doctors refuse to treat, and once again, the drug war claims more victims because the heroin is being tainted with fentanyl and other additives that make it extremely dangerous to use. Add the recent news that hydrocodone is going to be schedule II soon, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster for hundreds of thousands of pain patients in the U.S.
This drug war has got to stop. On every level, it does nothing but make victims out of people and money for the private prison industry.
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