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Heroin’s Death Toll Hits an All-Time High in New York

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New York City has a serious heroin problem on their hands and new data released by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reveals just how deep the issue goes. In fact, more people died from unintentional heroin overdoses in New York last year than any year since 2003.

Researchers were able to track the spread of heroin into new areas of the city, noting that use hits the hardest among white and higher-income New Yorkers. Spikes were also seen among older Hispanic users in the Bronx.

A Look at the Hard Numbers

New York City experienced a total of 782 drug overdoses in 2013. Out of all 782 cases, 420 people fatally overdosed on heroin. The death toll from heroin has more than doubled over the last three years, presenting a growing challenge for city officials. Even more alarming is that, despite earnest efforts, the city has been unable to reverse the surge of heroin in the Big Apple.

By contrast, amid a concerted effort to stem prescription pill abuse, especially on Staten Island, overdoses from opioid pills leveled off during the same time period, with 215 deaths recorded in 2013.

Dangerous Trends

As in previous years, the rate of heroin overdoses is highest among white residents. However, Hispanic residents have also developed problems with the drug. According to the N.Y. Department of Health, heroin overdose rates among Hispanic residents of New York have more than doubled since 2010.

Another troubling trend is the increased rate of heroin overdoses among New York youth. The group that experienced the largest increase in heroin overdoses includes people between the ages of 15 and 34, though people between the ages of 35 and 54 still had the highest overall overdose rate.

Location Specific

When it comes to heroin abuse and overdose rates, the biggest jump by far was in Queens. Believe it or not, 81 residents of Queens died at the hands of heroin last year – that’s 28 more deaths than Queens saw in 2012. Affluent areas of the north Bronx and eastern Queens have also become hot spots for heroin, a result of heavy opioid pill and heroin use in the surrounding suburbs in Westchester County and on Long Island.

Looking to the Future

It’s important to note that most overdose deaths don’t just involve one single type of drug. As the N.Y. Health Department notes, 94 percent of the city’s overdoses involved more than one substance.

In an effort to fight back against heroin, 20,000 NYC police officers are being armed with portable pocket-size devices that inject naloxone. Known as the opiate antidote, naloxone saves lives by reversing the effects of heroin.

Learn more about the dangers of heroin abuse and addiction.

Image Source: flickr/Cristian C

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