Increase In Opioid Prescription Painkiller Deaths

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Health Department Data Shows Increase In Opioid Prescription Painkiller Deaths In New York City

Opioid painkiller overdose death rates in Staten Island four times higher than in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn, increasing by 261% since 2005.

The Health Department released new data today showing that between 2005 and 2011, the New York City rate of overdose deaths from prescription opioid painkillers increased by 65%. While rates of opioid painkiller overdose deaths increased across all boroughs, Staten Island saw the largest increase over the last several years.

In 2011, rates of opioid painkiller overdose deaths in Staten Island were four times as high as Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, increasing by 261% since 2005. Overall, 220 persons died of overdose by prescription opioid painkillers in 2011, including 40 Staten Islanders.

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The Health Department also announced it would convene two conferences for physicians and dentists in Staten Island next month to help address the issue. At these conferences, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley will present the new data, and will lead a discussion on strategies providers can use to help reverse the opioid epidemic.

To address this growing problem, the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse is developing and implementing coordinated strategies for responding to the growth of opioid painkiller misuse and diversion in New York City.

In its initial report released in January 2013, the Task Force issued new voluntary emergency department guidelines to encourage safe and judicious prescribing of opioid painkillers upon patient discharge. The guidelines recommend that a short course of opioid painkillers is usually sufficient for acute pain, that emergency physicians not refill lost, stolen or destroyed prescriptions, and that they do not initiate treatment with long-acting opioid painkillers.

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To date, 20 hospital emergency departments across New York City have adopted the guidelines, including the City’s 11 public hospitals. The Health Department has also published guidance for primary care physicians and other practitioners in outpatient offices. The Health Department will be conducting door-to-door outreach to discuss prescribing guidelines with physicians.

Click here for the EIP data brief.