The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released some new numbers on opioid overdoses on Thursday; it’s mostly bad news, but there’s a bright spot here and there.
Overall, New York City is still seeing a steady rise in heroin overdoses, a trend that’s been going on for several years, both here and across the country. On the other hand, deaths from pharmaceutical painkillers, also called opioid analgesics, have leveled off in four of the five boroughs — and even declined somewhat In Staten Island — though the rate there is still by far the city’s highest.
Since 2000, almost 10,000 people in the city have died of opioid overdoses, and opioids are responsible for more than three quarters of all overdose deaths. But in recent years, most of the rise in fatal overdoses has been driven by heroin. Public health officials say that drug is increasingly being used as an alternative to its pharmaceutical cousins, a switch driven in part by heroin’s falling price and, maybe ironically, more successful attempts to control the illegal market for pharmaceutical drugs.
While heroin overdoses are most common in New York’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, the number of deaths in wealthier parts of the city has surged in recent years. Between 2010 and 2013, the rate of heroin deaths increased by almost 200 percent. Poorer neighborhoods still suffer about double the fatality rate, however, and the numbers have been rising in those parts of the city as well.
The report also shows a racial disparity in heroin overdoses. Deaths from the drug are most common among whites, but have been slowing among that demographic since 2010. And the numbers have been falling dramatically among black victims, who also have the lowest overall rate among the racial groups identified. The Hispanic community, meanwhile, has suffered a 122 percent increase in deaths since 2010, and now rivals white New Yorkers for the highest rate of overdose fatalities.
Read the full report on the following page.