New York Overdose Deaths Decline Slightly After Rising For 7 Years

By Lindsey Weedston 09/03/19

"The decrease in drug overdose deaths is promising but far too many New Yorkers are still dying," said New York Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

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The official report for 2018 drug overdose deaths in New York City has been released, showing a slight 2.6% decrease from 2017 after being on the rise for seven years. Last year, there were 1,444 overdose deaths within city limits, compared to just 541 in 2010.

Experts see this as a promising start after the city put forth millions of dollars in efforts to address this problem, particularly as the opioid epidemic has raged on. However, overdose deaths are still too high for anyone’s liking.

"The decrease in drug overdose deaths is promising," said New York Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, according to NBC. "But far too many New Yorkers are still dying."

The U.S. has experienced a "third wave" of the opioid epidemic in recent years due to the increasing prevalence of the highly potent fentanyl. This particular drug is often added to other illicit substances such as heroin or cocaine to increase the euphoric effect, and has been attributed to the heightened death toll of the opioid crisis.

Around 80% of New York’s overdose death cases from 2018 involved an opioid, with around 50% involving cocaine.

A Little Relief

Thankfully, preliminary reports on overdose deaths throughout the country have suggested an overall downturn in the number of fatal cases after several years of severe and alarming spikes.

Much of the nation’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic have revolved around increasing the public's access to naloxone, the drug that blocks opioid receptors in the brain, halting the effects of an overdose.

Campaigns have been launched across the U.S. to install naloxone kits alongside general first aid kits in public places such as airports and hotels and to recruit people to act as “community responders,” using apps and widespread community involvement to save lives.

Naloxone Access

New York City alone has distributed around 230,000 naloxone kits in two years. The medication commonly comes in an easy-to-deploy nasal spray, which anyone can purchase from a local pharmacy and carry with them in case they or someone nearby suffers an overdose.

Local governments have also invested in facilitating access to addiction treatment programs and businesses have contributed by implementing overdose detection technology in customer bathrooms in places like coffee shops and fast food establishments.

Unfortunately, some possibly overlooked populations still saw a rise in the number of overdose deaths in New York, including among older adults ages 55 to 84.

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: