31 Aug The Heroin Epidemic in New York
The Federal Government recently released a plan to distribute $5 million into fighting the war on heroin use and sales. This plan followed the release of statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that proves heroin use in the U.S. has skyrocketed to proportions ten times more aggressive than the Al Capone Era and The Prohibition.
The graph (Table 1.1) shows that the rate of deaths due to heroin overdose has increased exponentially from 2010 to 2013. The number of heroin addicts has doubled from 100 in 100,000 since 2002 to 2013. The CDC states that non-Hispanic white males ages 18 to 25 and people living in large metropolitan areas are the most at risk for heroin addiction. This covers most of the span of the U.S. heroin use rise among all ages, races, genders, incomes, insurance statuses, and locations.
The government postulates that the rise may have been due partially to an increase in supply. Since the early 2000s the amount of heroin seized at the border with Mexico quadrupled by 2013. During 2008 through 2011, hospitals saw a dramatic increase in drug poisoning visits of 1.1 million emergencies each year, approximately 35.4 visits per 10,000 people. This abuse is seen most prominent in the Midwest.
Taking a look at the graph (Table1.2) we can see the Midwest is by far the leader in deaths due to heroin overdose, but if you look closer, the second highest percentage of deaths is the Northeast. What does this mean for the area of Westchester County? Lets begin by looking into the targeted demographic of those mostly affected by heroin.
The demographic of heroin users has changed drastically in the last decade. Since 2000, African Americans ages 45-64 had the highest death rates for drug poisonings involving heroin. That portion of heroin users of non-white Americans has actually decreased tremendously in the past year.
This high rate has now shifted among the younger demographic of 18-44 year old non-Hispanic whites, so naturally this would correlate with areas were non-Hispanic whites tend to live the most, such as the suburban northeast. Now lets take a look at the state of New York itself.
The government released a statistic by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration that shows 20 percent of heroin seizures come from the state of New York every year. That statistic has grown by 67 percent in the state over the course of the last five years. Prescription pain medications and heroin investigations in suburban areas such as Rockland County, where a bag of heroin will run you as little as $5, is an area of high drug abuse by individuals of all ages and economic statuses. Treatment facilities are not far behind with reports of rising numbers. Five years ago, the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence were helping approximately 100 families per month. As of last month that number has vastly increased to more than 850 families; 80 percent of which was due to opiate and heroin addiction. With such numbers coming out of Rockland County, it is likely that this will trickle down to neighboring counties such as Westchester.
The growing epidemic of heroin use is tightening its grip in the suburbs. Police across Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties have already arrested more than 100 individuals due to heroin-related aggressions since December of 2013. Four people were reported dead from overdoses at Putnam Hospital Center in a span of two weeks in 2012. The Journal News also reported that young people in the Lower Hudson Valley began using drugs recreationally with cocaine and prescription medications before progressing to heroin.
So what is the state planning to do to stop the epidemic? New York State officials recently stated that they plan to equip police departments with an antidote to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. The initiative involves police officers caring around two naloxone filled syringes, gloves, and a handbook on how to use them. With proper education and technique, this may help decreased the number of overdose deaths in the state. Questions on how exactly this will work are yet to be answered.
Other initiatives involve helping people to gain access to treatment. Currently going through the state is a bill, which would amend the state’s insurance law to force providers to approve authorization and payment for substance abuse care. This would mean all policies would have to include some sort of clause on treatment coverage related to substance abuse deemed necessary by a healthcare provider.
The fact that action is being taken to safeguard communities is only just a start.