Press Release

As Opioid & Heroin Related Deaths in New York Continue to Climb, Senator Gillibrand Urges Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Opioid Epidemic

Mar 7, 2016

New York, N.Y. – As opioid and heroin related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand along with families and advocates are calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to help end the opioid epidemic. Senator Gillibrand introduced the Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act as an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill the Senate is set to vote on this week.


Senator Gillibrand’s proposed legislation would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue guidelines for the safe prescribing of opioids for the treatment of acute pain. The CDC is currently only focused on guidelines for opioids prescribed to treat chronic pain. However, many individuals become addicted to opioids after taking prescriptions for acute pain. Acute pain includes pain following a broken bone, wisdom tooth extraction, or other surgeries, whereas chronic pain is long-term pain that can last weeks, months, or years.


“As the opioid epidemic continues to grow in New York and across the country, we can’t wait any longer to take action and curb this growing crisis,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Part of this epidemic can be attributed to some medical providers over-prescribing opioids. When someone gets a tooth out and only needs medication for three days – why are they sent home from the doctor’s office with 30 Percocet? I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that will help fix this problem by requiring the CDC to issue clear guidelines to help medical providers safely prescribe opioids for these common types of acute pain. I am hopeful that my bill will get a vote in the Senate next week and I am urging my colleagues to support this measure to help curb the growing opioid crisis.”


“Mental health problems, including addiction, touch every family, in every city across our nation. Too many people suffer and struggle with an addiction to opioids, and their loved ones suffer with them.” said Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City, who is spearheading the city’s efforts on mental health and substance misuse. “New York City has dramatically expanded access to buprenorphine and naloxone, ‎life-saving medicines that treat opioid addiction and reverse overdose. We will help our families more if we can prevent the overprescribing of opioids. I’m grateful that Senator Gillibrand is calling attention to the problem.”


“The alarming rate of opiate overdose deaths in New York and around the country shows no sign of diminishing despite persistent calls for action.  Research shows that overprescribing opiates for pain has contributed to this public health crisis of addiction.  The legislation sponsored by Senators Gillibrand and Capito that would require the CDC to issue opiate prescription guidelines is a practical and common sense measure that would help stem the flow of opiates to the communities we serve,” said Jon  Morgenstern, PhD, Director of Addiction Services at Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System).


“As a resident of New York and an addiction medicine physician, I am pleased to know that Sen. Gillibrand is a leader in addressing the need to promote the safe prescription of opioids for pain. It has been well documented that the 300% increase in the sales of prescription pain medications since 1999 is associated with a fourfold increase in deaths from prescription pain medications since that same year. The American Society of Addiction Medicine applauds the Senator’s efforts to create guidelines for the prescribing of opioids for acute pain to complement the CDC developing guidelines for the prescribing of opioids for chronic pain. Reversing the deadly trends of the opioid epidemic can only be helped by safer prescribing practices by health providers treating all types of pain. We look forward to working with Sen. Gillibrand and the CDC to help with the development of these guidelines,” said Dr. Jeffrey Selzer, MD, DFASAM, the New York Region Director and member of the Board of Directors for the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).


“The Staten Island YMCA Counseling Service has witnessed firsthand the rapid increase in opioid addiction. Unused, leftover prescription medicine has contributed significantly to this crisis. We believe this legislation is an important step towards limiting the access to overprescribed pills and minimizing their number on our streets,” said Jacqueline Filis, Executive Director, YMCA of Greater New York Counseling Services Branch.  

“Prescriber guidelines for the use of opioids for acute pain are just as vital to combat the overdose epidemic as those for chronic pain. Even the use of low dose opioids for treating acute pain triples the likelihood of developing a subsequent pill addiction. A comprehensive and balanced response is required among doctors, dentists, and pharmacists to limit loose and needless access to addictive medications
,” said Dr. Arthur Williams Fellow, Division on Substance Abuse at Columbia University Department of Psychiatry.


“Managing acute pain is a challenge for physicians since there is an obligation to recognize and treat pain in our injured and ill patients.  However, it is essential that physicians consider the potential and real longer term effects of prescribing opioid medications as a first line of treatment.  Education and guidelines from credible and official sources, like the CDC, can be extremely useful to health care providers when faced with prescribing  medications for the management of acute pain,” said Stephen G. Rice, MD, PhD, MPH, FACSM at American College of Sports Medicine.


The Facts On the Growing Opioid Epidemic:


  • Nearly 2 million Americans abuse or are addicted to prescription opioids, and nearly half a million more are addicted to heroin according to SAMHSA.


  • In 2014, nearly 19,000 people died in the United States from overdose related to opioid pain relievers, nearly five times the number in 1999 according to CDC.


  • The increase in opioid addiction is linked to an increase in opioid prescriptions. Between 1999 and 2010, there was a 400% increase in sales of prescription opioid pain relievers in the U.S. Over the same time period, there has not been an increased in the amount of pain Americans report according to CDC.


  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills according to CDC.


  • Teenagers who receive an opioid prescription by 12th grade are 33% more likely to abuse opioids after high school. The risk for opioid abuse is even higher among teenagers who report little to no previous use of illicit substances according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.



  • In a paper published by the American Dental Association in 2011, 64% of dentists surveyed preferred prescribing hydrocodone with acetaminophen for a third molar extraction, for an average of 20 pills per prescription.  4 in 5 individuals who use heroin report prior abuse of prescription opioids, according to SAMHSA.