The number of people who died from unintentional heroin overdoses in New York City last year was the highest toll the city has seen in a decade, according to data released Thursday by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
In New York, where the overall rate of drug overdose deaths has dramatically risen since 2010, there is a national problem playing out across the city’s streets. The number of overdoses involving heroin in the city has significantly increased since 2010, accounting for more than half of New York City’s overdoses last year. And more than three-quarters of the overdoses in the city involved an opioid of some kind.
This information comes amid a pair of national epidemics operating in tandem: A surge in heroin usage nationwide has been accompanied by a much larger opioid epidemic, with drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone were responsible for the majority of unintentional overdoses involving pharmaceutical drugs.
The number of heroin overdose deaths has risen every year since 2010, as the number of deaths has more than doubled to 420 people last year from 209 just three years earlier:
These overdoses are significantly impacting neighborhoods where the poverty level is the highest:
The Bronx and Staten Island were the boroughs where the most heroin overdoses occurred, but the situation worsened in Queens. That borough — which had trailed the other four in 2011 and 2012 — saw the rate of heroin overdoses more than double last year.
As has been the case for years, the rate of overdoses is the highest among white residents. But the rate has skyrocketed among Hispanic residents, more than doubling from 2010:
Another particularly troubling trend noted by the Health Department was the increased rate of overdoses seen among younger New Yorkers. The age bracket with the biggest increase in heroin overdoses was people between 15 and 34, though people 35 to 54 still had the highest rate of heroin overdoses.
One thing to keep in mind is that most of the overdose deaths don’t just involve a single type of drug. As the Health Department notes, the overwhelming majority (94 percent) of overdoses involved more than one substance.
As part of the push to combat deaths from heroin and opiods, nearly 20,000 police officers in New York City are being equipped with naloxone, a drug that treats these overdoses by reversing the extremely slow breathing. Other police departments across the country are also preparing to train first responders with naloxone.
The Food and Drug Administration approved a device earlier this year that would allow family members to administer a dose of naloxone during an emergency, fast-tracking its approval because the number of deaths from opioid overdoses has dramatically increased.