New York Addresses Heroin Crisis With Movie Theater PSAs

By McCarton Ackerman 12/23/14

Movie theaters across the state will show public service announcements warning about the dangers of the drug.

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New York is addressing the rise in heroin use throughout the state by releasing public service announcements in theaters that warn moviegoers about the dangers of the drug.

The announcements began airing last Friday and feature testimonials from recovering users who share stories about how their heroin use affected both their lives and those around them. The PSA’s will only appear before select PG-13 and R-rated movies, but Cuomo said the campaign is all part of a plan by the state to “push back” against heroin and prescription drug use.

There were 91,000 medical admissions for heroin and prescription opiate abuse, which is up from 76,000 five years ago. More people in New York City died from heroin overdoses than any year since 2013, with 420 out of 782 fatal overdoses coming from the drug. Heroin deaths have more than doubled in the city since 2010.

Heroin use has also extended into suburbs and smaller cities throughout the state. A bag of heroin costs $10 in the Albany area, which is half the cost than it was a few years ago. And with police reporting that heroin today is stronger and more concentrated than ever before, drug users are moving away from prescription opioids to get a better high for their money.

"By taking away opiate pain pills, we are not necessarily reducing the demand for them," said Dr. Bruce Masalak an addiction specialist at St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam. "Heroin is an attractive substitute to feed that addiction."

Only 5% of those admitted to treatment centers in 2000 checked in for addictions to heroin and opiates, but that number soared last year to 23%. Local hospitals have also reported more emergency room visits related to heroin in recent years.

Some local communities have taken action to help address this problem. The Rensselaer County system has launched an ongoing dialogue about substance abuse in their community, holding meetings and support groups to help address the issue.

“He was functioning. He went to school every day. He was always out and about,” said Auerbach Lyman, who lost her son Jeremiah to drug use. “You just want to rewind time.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.