NYC overdose deaths from prescription painkillers up 65%

May 14, 2013 at 8:43 PM
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NEW YORK, May 14 (UPI) -- From 2005-11, New York City's rate of overdose deaths from prescription opioid painkillers increased by 65 percent, city health officials say.

"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."

The rates of opioid painkillers -- such as oxycodone, or Percocet and hydrocodone, or Vicodin -- overdose deaths increased across all New York City boroughs, but Staten Island saw the largest increase over the last several years.

In 2011, rates of opioid painkiller overdose deaths on Staten Island were four times as high as in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn -- an increase of 261 percent since 2005. Overall, 220 people died of overdose by prescription opioid painkillers in 2011, including 40 from Staten Island, Farley said.

Between 2008-11, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions filled by New York City residents increased by 31 percent from approximately 1.6 million to about 2.2 million, with oxycodone accounting for 53 percent of those prescriptions.

The largest increase of opioid painkiller use was among younger New Yorkers, ages 25-34 -- jumping 227 percent between 2005-11. More than 250,000 New Yorkers age 12 and older -- about 4 percent of the population -- report misusing prescription pain relievers.

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