The number of heroin-related deaths in NYC has more than doubled since 2010, with last year's death toll the highest it's been in a decade. And officials say the heroin spike has also highlighted a shift in the users' demographic, with overdoses affecting even more users in Staten Island, Queens and in wealthier neighborhoods in Manhattan.
According to data released by the Department of Health today [pdf], there were 482 recorded fatal heroin overdoses in 2013. 81 of those fatalities occurred in Queens, as compared with 53 fatal heroin overdoses in 2012; 32 Staten Island residents fatally overdosed last year, and 94 died in the Bronx. Overall, heroin overdose deaths made up 54 percent of the 720 total overdose fatalities. And these deaths increasingly involve younger New Yorkers, with fatalities involving those aged 15 to 34 seeing a 129 percent increase.
The DOH also notes a stark increase in heroin-involved deaths among residents of wealthier neighborhoods; in 2003, when the number of heroin-related fatalities last reached higher than 400, overdoses were primarily limited to poorer areas. "It was almost exclusively central Brooklyn, South Bronx, east Harlem and overlapped with New York City’s highest-need neighborhoods,” addiction specialist Andrew Kolodny told the Times. “The rest of the city — Staten Island, Queens, most of Manhattan — close to nothing.”
Earlier this year, city officials warned that heroin distribution had spiked to its highest level in two decades. "We’re kind of the head of the Hydra,” Bridget Brennan, the city's the special narcotics prosecutor, told the Times in April. “This is highly organized, high volume, and it’s being moved much more efficiently and effectively to reach out to a broader user base."
Meanwhile, prescription pill abuse—recently considered the country's fastest-growing drug problem—comprised 27 percent of the city's total overdose deaths, and officials say the mortality rate "appears to have leveled off" over the past three years.