For some time now, the national and local media have been focusing attention on the growing epidemic of abuse of the addictive pain killers classified as “opioids”. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly five million people in the United States have an opioid dependence problem, and that 17,000 deaths a year are attributable to this addiction. 1 The Centers for Disease Control estimated that opioid overdose death rates sharply increased from 7.9 per 100,000 population in 2013 to 9.0 per 100,000 population in 2014.2 Another report estimates that, of the 22,000 deaths due to drug overdoses, half were caused by overdoses of prescription drugs.3
Opioid abuse has been a growing problem in New York, which prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to appoint a Heroin and Opioid Task Force co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). This task force’s report included 25 recommendations to enhance addiction prevention, improve treatment options, offer greater support for long-term recovery, and strengthen law enforcement provisions on drug dispensing.4 The State Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction also released a report with more than 30 recommendations for combating the addiction crisis.5
The Senate and Assembly last month passed a package of bills implementing many of the recommendations of these task forces.6
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