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Drug overdose deaths rises in New York

Updated: 2014-08-29 14:15

NEW YORK -- New dada from the New York City Health Department show that, from 2010 to 2013, drug overdose deaths in the metropolis increased by 41 percent -- from 8.2 to 11.6 per 100,000 New Yorkers.

According to the new Epi Data Brief, 77 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2013 involved opioid, including opioid analgesics (prescription painkillers), methadone or heroin. On average, there is more than one fatal opioid overdose a day.

Heroin plays an increasing role in overdose deaths in New York City, with related fatalities doubling from 3.1 per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2010 to 6.2 per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2013.

Patterns of opioid overdose deaths differ by borough. In Staten Island, opioid analgesics-involved overdose deaths declined by 32 percent, reversing a more than 4-fold upward trend between 2005 and 2011.

The Health Department responded in 2012 to this sharp increase in fatal opioid overdoses by implementing a multi-pronged approach.

"After seeing a troubling increase in opioid overdose deaths in Staten Island, the Department took an aggressive approach to save lives," said Health Commissioner Mary Bassett. "Though we have seen progress in Staten Island, there is still much more work to be done."

As part of its efforts to reduce heroin and opioid analgesics overdose deaths in New York City, the Health Department funds 14 syringe access programs for New Yorkers who use drugs, including heroin.

These programs provide counseling, education on reducing risk from drug use, and overdose prevention services. In response to increasing heroin overdose deaths, the Health Department is enhancing the capacity of syringe access programs to provide overdose prevention services in targeted areas and to reach individuals currently not receiving harm reduction services.

The Health Department also distributes naloxone to syringe access programs and other programs in New York City. This medication immediately reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkillers, and can save lives if bystanders and other first responders administer it to an overdosing person.

To promote safe and judicious opioid prescribing, the Health Department developed guidelines for general practice and for emergency departments, in conjunction with clinical advisory groups. The guidelines have been adopted by 38 emergency departments across New York City.

The Health Department is also partnering with two hospitals in Queens -- Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center -- to promote safe and judicious prescribing of opioid analgesics across their hospital systems, in addition to their emergency departments.

The Health Department also promotes access to treatment for opioid addiction, including medication assisted treatment through buprenorphine and methadone. These treatments reduce the risk of overdose among people suffering from opioid addiction, and help people regain their ability to function as family members, gain employment, and lead stable lives.

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