Sixth consecutive year that overdose deaths have increased in New York City;
every seven hours, someone dies of an overdose
Presence of the potent opioid fentanyl driving dramatic increase in deaths
June 13, 2017 – The Health Department today released an Epi Data Brief showing a record number of unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City. In 2016, there were 1,374 drug overdose deaths, 437 more than the previous year. This marked the sixth consecutive year that overdose deaths have increased. Overdose rates rose among all demographic groups and among residents of nearly every New York City neighborhood. In 2016, South Bronx residents had the highest rate of drug overdose (37.1 per 100,000 New Yorkers). Researchers at the Health Department attribute the dramatic rise in overdose deaths to the increased presence of fentanyl. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, has been found in heroin and cocaine as well as in benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics acquired from non-pharmaceutical sources. In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray announced HealingNYC, the City’s comprehensive initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over five years. Through HealingNYC, the Administration is investing $38 million annually at full ramp-up to increase naloxone distribution and community-based trainings, expand access to medication assisted treatment and promote judicious opioid prescribing. The full Epi Data Brief.
“The final overdose data for 2016 confirm what we have feared – drug overdose deaths have reached a record high and are increasing citywide as the opioid epidemic continues to affect every community,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We remain committed to addressing this crisis and will continue to work with the de Blasio administration to make sure that every New Yorker has access to life-saving treatments and services when needed. Opioid overdose deaths are preventable, and we will not rest until we put an end to this epidemic.”
Two weeks ago, the Health Department announced that fentanyl is increasingly found in cocaine-related overdose deaths. The Department also issued a Health Advisory to 40,000 medical professionals with information on how to educate patients, particularly those who may use cocaine occasionally, about this increased overdose risk. According to the Epi Data Brief, in 2016, 97 percent of overdose deaths in New York City involved more than one substance, with more than eight in ten overdose deaths involving an opioid. Heroin was found in 751 (55 percent) of all overdose deaths, making it the most common substance involved in overdose deaths; fentanyl was found in 44 percent of all overdose deaths.
“The number of overdose deaths continues to skyrocket, leaving our families and our communities reeling,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “I will soon be introducing legislation to legalize safer consumption sites in New York, to ensure that individuals struggling with substance use disorder have a safe space with quick access to naloxone, and experts who can reverse an overdose and provide recovery counseling and other lifesaving supports. We owe it to our families to try to use every harm reduction tool at our disposal to save lives.”
Opioid overdose deaths are preventable. The Health Department funds regular naloxone trainings, which teach New Yorkers to recognize the signs of an overdose and respond by calling 911 and administering naloxone. The trainings are free, and all participants receive a free naloxone kit. Treatment with methadone or buprenorphine can also reduce risk of overdose.
Last month, the Health Department coordinated a two-day opioid outreach campaign to advise people about the risks associated with fentanyl and provide key safety messages directed to people who use drugs, even if only occasionally. The Department also announced the “I Saved a Life” awareness campaign to show New Yorkers that they can help save lives by learning about overdose prevention and by carrying and using naloxone. The City launched a free mobile app, “Stop OD NYC,” which teaches New Yorkers how to recognize and reverse an overdose with naloxone and links individuals to nearby community-based programs and pharmacies where naloxone is available without a prescription.
With HealingNYC, the City has launched a multifaceted response to the opioid crisis, including:
New Yorkers can get naloxone without a prescription at over 740 pharmacies throughout the city, including all major chain pharmacies (Walgreens, Duane Reade, Rite Aid and CVS) and at registered opioid overdose programs. Individuals seeking support or treatment for substance use issues for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. Free, confidential support is available at any hour of the day in over 200 languages.
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez: (347) 396-4177