Press Release

As Opioid & Heroin Related Deaths In New York Continue To Climb, Senator Gillibrand Urges Passage Of Bipartisan Legislation To Fight Opioid Epidemic

Apr 15, 2016

Albany, 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, legislation that 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 recently finalized 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.

According to the most recent data from the New York State Department of Health, opioid related deaths in the Capital Region have increased by 410 percent from 10 deaths in 2004 to 51 deaths in 2013. 51 people die each day in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids according to the CDC, nearly five times the number in 1999. Between 1999 and 2010, there was a 400% increase in sales of prescription opioid pain relievers in the United States. However, in that same period, there was no increase in the amount of pain Americans reported, according to the CDC.

“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 urging my colleagues in Congress to pass this measure to help curb the growing opioid crisis.” 

“Unfortunately, there are far too many families, in our community, state, and nation that have experienced heartbreak similar to ours,” said Kim and Tim Murdick of Sand Lake.  “In 1925 our country signed the Geneva protocol that was designed to protect our nation from adversaries and their threat of biological or chemical weapons.   Now, in 2016, neighborhoods across our Nation are under attack of chemical weapons – opioid and addictive pain medications.  However, our adversaries are not in distant lands, they are in our communities. For this reason we and other members in our community have formed group known as the Nopiates Coalition which will address the powerful pharmaceutical companies that misrepresent these addictive drugs, the doctors and the pain clinics that over prescribe these chemicals, and the insurance companies that refuse to provide treatment for patients who seek treatment for their addictions.  These drugs are over-prescribed on a daily basis and their addictive nature causes our loved ones to turn to street drugs like heroin to satisfy their addiction. Despite our profound love and dedication, and repeated attempts to reclaim his health, our son Sean lost his battle against these chemicals.  We are here today as his parents to advocate for him and so many like him.  We may have lost our son in his battle against these drugs, but the Nopiates Coalition vow to give it our all to win this war, for Sean and for all the other sons and daughters struggling in their own battles against addiction.” 

“For a significant subset of people, the use of opioids for acute pain is an important treatment option. However, these medications are sometimes misused and abused, resulting in potentially devastating consequences. The development of acute pain treatment guidelines through efforts by the CDC would be a vital step to help clinicians approach the management of acute pain in a safer and more effective manner than is being done currently,” said Charles Argoff, M.D., professor of neurology at Albany Medical College and director of the Comprehensive Pain Center at Albany Medical Center.

“I am most grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her legislative proposal to address constructively and aggressively the growing epidemic of opioid abuse and heroin addiction,” said Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard.

“42% of the clients served in Hope House, Inc. have an opioid or heroin dependency. What is more alarming is that 37% of the adolescent clients we serve are addicted to heroin or other opiates an increase of 21% from last year,” said Kevin M. Connally, Executive Director of Hope House, Inc. “We applaud Senator Gillibrand efforts to decrease over prescribing of opiate medication.”

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.