New York City drug-overdose deaths have surged by 36 percent, according to new federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
A heartbreaking 2,243 people in the five boroughs died from drug overdoses for the 12-month period ending March 31, compared to 1,653 who died in the same period the year before, according to agency stats.
And that’s an undercount, the CDC noted, “due to incomplete data.”
The vast majority of the deaths are from opioids and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, said Dr. Silvia Martins, director of the Substance Use Epidemiology Unit of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“Overall, we were expecting that [overdose deaths] would increase,” she said, due to economic and general stress related to the pandemic — plus a “disruption” in addiction treatment.
A total of 1,853 people died from opioid overdoses during the 12-month period, a 45 percent increase from 2020. That category includes natural and synthetic opioids including oxycontin, fentanyl, and methadone.
Cocaine and heroin also claimed more lives: 908 died from cocaine, up 35 percent, and 800 died of heroin ODs, up 15 percent.
Psychostimulants — a category that includes methamphetamine, ecstasy, and ADHD drugs — killed 141, up 52 percent.
The total number of overdose deaths is less than the sum of the individual drug categories because some deaths are attributed to a combination of drugs.
Overdoses are up 31 percent nationwide, with 96,779 deaths for the same 12-month period.
The rest of New York state also saw 2,950 OD deaths, 31 percent more than the year before.
NYC overdose deaths: 2020 vs. 2021
(For 12 months ended March 31. Totals won’t sum due to drug combination)
The CDC data release comes less than a week after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill decriminalizing the public possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes.
A rep for the city Health Department said that while it “is still researching the increase in overdose deaths in 2020, a national increase of fentanyl in the drug supply, along with pandemic-related stressors, are most likely the causes.”
“The Health Department is working on publishing its own report on 2020 overdose data, and will have more to share soon,” the rep added.
A rep for the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports said that “isolation brought on by the pandemic is one of the risk factors for increased mental health symptoms, increased substance use and overdoses.”
“The presence of fentanyl in illicit substances such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, and others is also a major contributor to overdoses and fatalities,” the office added.