Press Release

As Prescription Opioid-& Heroin-Related Deaths In New York Continue To Climb, Senator Gillibrand Holds Roundtable On Solutions To End Epidemic

Aug 10, 2016

Bronx, NY – As prescription opioid- and heroin-related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today hosted a roundtable with families and advocates to discuss bolstering efforts to help end the opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand called on Congress to pass 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, prescription opioid-related deaths in the Bronx have increased by 48 percent from 31 deaths in 2004 to 46 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 percent 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 would 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.”


“Hundreds of families in this city have been tragically torn apart by the opioid crisis in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “It is especially concerning that the greatest number of overdose deaths have occurred in the Bronx, where the Latino community has been disproportionally affected by the epidemic. The City will continue to devote resources and funding to expand our prevention efforts. I thank Senator Gillibrand for convening this roundtable discussion and for shining a light on this growing nationwide crisis that is endangering the lives of so many New Yorkers.”

“Although we envision a Bronx where overdose death is not a concern for our community, BOOM!Health is thrilled to partner with Senator Gillibrand to host this vital roundtable discussion. Substance use disorder can be an isolating experience; many of our participants are estranged from their families and have little opportunity to engage with public officials. Having Senator Gillibrand, Commissioner Bassett and other community partners visit our Harm Reduction Center to hear directly from our participants, is an invaluable opportunity. We’re committed to maintaining this important dialog beyond today’s event, as we work collaboratively to improve the lives of New Yorkers struggling with substance use,” said Jose M. Davila, President & CEO of BOOM!Health.


“Preventing and treating opioid addiction are critical public health efforts. Comprehensive efforts should include limiting opioids prescribed for acute and chronic pain, identifying opioid addiction, and treating opioid addiction with effective medications like buprenorphine and methadone,” said Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center.


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 overdoses 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 United States. Over the same time period, there has not been an increase 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 patients to use as needed after a wisdom tooth removal, a procedure common in young adulthood. The average prescription was for 20 pills.
  • 4 in 5 individuals who use heroin report prior abuse of prescription opioids, according to SAMHSA.