Press Release

As Opioid & Heroin Related Deaths In New York Continue To Climb, Senator Gillibrand And Rep. Katko Urge Passage Of Bipartisan Legislation To Fight Opioid Epidemic

Apr 4, 2016

Syracuse, N.Y. – As opioid and heroin related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative John Katko 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 Central New York have increased by 2,900 percent from 2 deaths in 2004 to 60 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.”

“There is no question that the heroin and opioid epidemic has hit Central New York hard.  Far too many lives have been lost to opioid and heroin addiction, and families throughout our community are struggling to find treatment for their loves ones,” said U.S. Representative John Katko. “Heroin addiction all too often begins with the misuse of prescription drugs, turning to crippling abuse and ending all too often in death.  That’s why I’m proud to stand with Sen. Gillibrand today in support her bipartisan, commonsense proposal to help prevent new cases of opioid addiction, while we continue to work to expand access to treatment for individuals who are already addicted.”


“It’s often said too much of a good thing is not good. The overprescribing of opioid base pain killers is helping to fuel a deadly epidemic never before seen,” said John Socci, Father and Member of Heroin Epidemic Action League (HEAL).  “Senator Gillibrand’s proposed legislation is a courageous first step in addressing this issue.”


“As the region’s only hospital-based provider of substance abuse treatment services, Crouse Hospital is on the front lines of the opioid abuse issue, and we strongly support the establishment of guidelines for prescribing opioids to treat acute pain. Senators Gillibrand and Capito are to be commended for encouraging the CDC to address this important issue, which crosses all socio-economic lines,” said Monika Taylor, Director of Chemical Dependency Treatment Services for Crouse Hospital.


“The only way the opiate epidemic is going to be addressed for the long term is through the collaborative efforts of all levels of government and community. Policy change has been proven to be one of the most successful prevention strategies and ultimately will have the most significant impact for the individuals we serve,” said Beth Hurny, Executive Director, Prevention Network.


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.