The number of deaths in New York from prescription painkiller overdoses has increased 65% from 2005 to 2011.
The city Health Department says there were 220 prescription overdose deaths in 2011, which is up from 130 in 2005.
“Prescription opioids can be dangerous drugs,” Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, said in a statement. “They are chemically and biologically very similar to heroin and, like heroin, can lead to addiction and fatal overdose. Physicians and patients need to know the potential dangers of using these drugs.”
While the rates of opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone, Percocet, hydrocodone, or Vicodin, overdose deaths increased across all New York City, the biggest increase was on Staten Island. There were 40 painkiller deaths in 2011, or 11.2 per 100,000 people.
“The Health Department’s data confirms what many Staten Islanders have unfortunately witnessed firsthand: prescription opioid painkillers are out of control in our borough and taking far too many of our loved ones,” Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro said in a statement.
The largest increase of painkiller usage was among younger New Yorkers, ages 25-34, jumping 227 percent between 2005-11. More than 250,000 New Yorkers age 12 and older, report misusing prescription pain relievers.
In order to address this problem, the Health Department plans to hold two conferences for doctors and dentists on Staten Island next month.
In those conferences, they hope to come up with a better guideline for prescribing painkillers to patients.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg announced an initiative to cut the number of days doctors can prescribe painkillers in the emergency room; the initiative has since been adopted by 11 city hospitals.
Recently, the FDA has stopped approving any generic OxyContin painkillers to hinder the drug abuse. The new Oxycontin tablet is harder to crush, break, or dissolve. It also forms a hydro-gel and cannot be injected easily. The FDA has determined that the physical and chemical properties of the reformulated painkiller is expected to make it difficult to inject and to reduce abuse via snorting.
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