While it is true that there are numerous drugs of abuse that are part of the general drug abuse epidemic in the United States, governmental authorities tend to target one drug to anchor the overall issue in the public mind. For instance, New York Governor Cuomo has created a special a task force to combat heroin and prescription opioid abuse.
New York, like much of the Northeast, is currently facing a heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemic. The governor’s task force appears to mainly be devoted to educating the public on the many deleterious consequences associated with heroin and prescription opioid abuse. The task force is composed of experts, including clinicians, policy advocates, teachers, parents, and New Yorkers who are in recovery. This expert task force holds public listening tours across New York to recommend law and policy changes, educate the public on current laws and policies, provide drug use prevention education, and advocate for treatment services for those in need of them. New York state maintains a current calendar of Public Listening Tour Dates.
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Governor Cuomo’s efforts must be put into context. As the White House reports, heroin is the most common primary drug of abuse for which New Yorkers seek treatment at a recovery center. Although heroin abuse may be a significant problem, the state also faces a more general drug problem. New York residents have a higher rate of illicit drug abuse than the national average.
An estimated 9.82 percent of state residents are current users of illicit drugs compared to the national average of 8.82 percent. This statistic does not break out the type of drugs of abuse that New Yorkers use. The White House has also reported, per one study, that 3.7 percent of New Yorkers were current users of drugs other than marijuana. This finding reflects a greater percentage than the national average of 3.6 percent. A comparison of New York drug abuse rates in 2009-2010 revealed that New York ranked in the top 10 on the following two metrics: highest cocaine use rates and illicit drug dependence in the 12-and-older age group.
Drunk and Drugged Driving in New York
The public is affected by drug use in countless ways, but one of the most impactful consequences involves motor vehicle accidents. While all 50 states have drunk and drugged driving laws, only 17 states have adopted a per se standard for drugged driving (proof that a drug was present in the driver’s system is all that is needed for a conviction). New York is not one of these 17 states; however, Section 1192 of the Consolidated Laws of New York makes it illegal for any person to operate a vehicle while impaired by a drug. The types of drugs are listed in the statute. The court may consider as evidence the fact that a driver refused to submit to a drug test (roadside or after arrest).
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2012, there were 340 drunk driving deaths in New York. For this survey year, the number of fatalities in New York was greater than in New Jersey (164), Maryland (163), and Washington, DC, (3) but less than Pennsylvania (407). In 2012, 29 percent of all traffic deaths involved alcohol. In 2013, the number of traffic deaths on New York roads increased to 364, and 30 percent of all New York traffic deaths involved alcohol.
There is current data available on the fatal overdose rates in New York. Before considering these rates, however, it is necessary to highlight that the White House has reported that, overall, the drug-involved death rate in New York is lower than the national average. The overdose information is broken down by county, and there are 62 counties in New York. For survey years 2012-2014, there is a selection below of counties and their number of drug overdose rates.
The selection includes the two highest, two with middle range rates, and two with the least incidents of drug-involved deaths, as follows:
Suffolk County (includes the Hamptons, Central Islip, and Shelter Island): 843 deaths
Kings County (includes Brooklyn): 621 fatalities
Westchester County (includes Scarsdale, Yonkers, and Ossining): 295 fatalities
Dutchess County (includes Poughkeepsie, Beacon, and Rhinebeck): 176 overdose deaths
Delaware County (includes Stamford, Hobart, and Roxbury): 11 drug-involved fatalities
Genesee County (covers the territory of Stafford, Bethany, and Battavia): 10 deaths
These rates do not reflect population density so it is unknown what percentage of the population is affected county to county. Still, these rates draw attention to the fact that drug overdose rates are among the highest in New York City, such as Kings County, but also present a crisis in more suburban areas, such as those in Suffolk County.
Overall, as The New York Times reports, there has been a surge in drug overdose rates across the US. In nearly every county in America, rates have increased. There is a general consensus that this nationwide increase owes to the prevalence of opioid medications. It’s not only that Americans have become addicted to prescription relievers, but also that the availability of these drugs has led to a resurgence of heroin use.
Public Efforts to Provide Drug Treatment
AThe Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is a main provider, funder, and organizer of public addiction treatment services in New York. OASAS states, per its findings, that each year an estimated 12 percent of New Yorkers in the 12-or-older age group experience a substance use disorder (moderate to severe). Approximately 1.9 million New Yorkers experience a problem with substance abuse. These individuals may not meet the criteria for a substance use disorder diagnosis but they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or other drugs.
OASAS reportedly has one of the largest public addiction treatment service systems in the country. OASAS levels of care include residential programs, outpatient programs, methadone maintenance programs, and crisis services. Additionally, OASAS makes community-based services available that provide prevention services, intervention help after abuse taken hold, recovery services, and supportive services.
Despite the vast number of New Yorkers who need treatment for a substance use disorder or alcohol or other drug problem, according to OASAS, it serves 260,000 New Yorkers annually. While other rehab service providers, such as private rehab centers, are involved in recovery, the reality is that there is a wide gap between the number of New Yorkers who need drug treatment and those who actually receive it.
In addition to providing treatment services, OASAS also serves as an informational hub for those who need to learn more about the recovery process or find a rehab service provider. The following are some helpful public resources:
It is helpful to know that recovery services can be provided in different settings in New York and across the US, including but not limited to:
Rehab centers (public or private)
Doctors’ offices (typically for opioid substitution therapy maintenance, such as Suboxone treatment)
Much of the research around drug treatment is dedicating to testing the effectiveness of different methodologies. As public and private funding tends to go to the substantive aspects of treatment, it is no surprise that this is little available research on the exact number of rehab centers and the effectiveness of individual programs.
While OASAS provides a drug rehab service provider directory, there are additional ways to search. For instance, individuals in New York who need inpatient care but have limited finances can search the Network of Care directory, which currently has 53 listings by this designation.
The informational source Psychology Today also maintains a directory of service providers, but they tend to be private; therefore, the cost for services will usually need to be paid through health insurance and/or out-of-pocket. In addition, New York nonprofits can prove a helpful source of aid to individuals seeking recovery or concerned family members who need guidance and support. One example is the Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse. This community-based agency works to increase awareness of drug abuse and mobilize individuals to get substance abuse treatment.
Speaking in broad strokes, New York has one of the highest rates of substance use disorders among its residents. Despite public, private, and nonprofit efforts, treatment delivery lags behind treatment needs. This reality owes in part to the complex nature of addiction and recovery. It is well accepted that relapse is part of the recovery process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction relapse rates range from 40 to 60 percent.
The first step in the recovery, whether it’s a person’s first time seeking help or not, is to get help from a qualified service provider. No matter one’s personal circumstances, it is critical to know that there is help in New York, throughout the Northeast, and across the nation.
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