While other states battle rising mortality rates by prescription drug overdose New York State has one of the lowest rates in the nation. A report on prescription drug abuse from Trust for America’s Health says that New York has the sixth lowest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States. Since 1999, these rates have doubled in 29 states, tripled in ten and quadrupled in four. Prescription drug related deaths now outnumber those from cocaine and heroin combined.
Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research Director Andrea Gielen recommends drug turnover programs as one way to fight the epidemic,
“There has to be more awareness of the need for those kinds of drop off programs to make this a problem that will be prevented. I don’t think people are aware that if you throw the pills without doing something to them that they can come back into circulation or if you leave them around your house that they can be taken by other people.”
Drug turnover programs are one of the strategies used in Syracuse to combat prescription drug overdose however they tend to be sporadic. A constant strategy in Central New York is the use of Good Samaritan Laws.
Executive Director of Trust for America’s Heath, Jeffrey Levi says often individuals who witness an overdose are too fearful to reach out to authorities for help because they may be involved in illegal activities.
“If it’s an individual seeking care or someone helping someone who may also be a drug user seeks out emergency assistance we want them to get that medical care. Keeping them alive is the first priority and that should not become a basis for prosecution in anyway if either contributing to someone’s use of illegal substances or misuse of substances. So that’s the point of the Good Samaritan Law that you shouldn’t be penalized for helping to keep someone alive,” he says.
The report included a list of ten strategies used by states to shrink the prescription drug epidemic. Some include: the presence of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program; more support for substance abuse treatment; and requiring identification in order to obtain a prescription drug, among others. The chart below breaks down the various strategies and if they are in place in New York State.
New York scored nine out of ten on this front, but the state has still seen a rise in overdose deaths. People dying of drug overdose rose 56-percent since 1999. The number of people using prescription drugs exceeds 6 million nationally, as of 2011.
The report itself can be found online.
For more information visit the Healthy Americans' website.