By now the myriad of substance abuse issues plaguing the Long Island area have been well documented. As more and more residents succumb to overdose and external substance abuse-related factors, the entirety of the Long Island community has become vulnerable to this complex and multilayered public health issue. In an effort to fully understand the weight and urgency of the problem, it helps to understand which substance abuse issues are most prevalent in the area. As chemical dependency in America continues to transcend age, economic status and ethnic background, a thorough understanding of the contexts and causes surrounding addiction might be the most effective weapon in developing sound treatment and prevention practices. The two most urgent addiction issues facing Long Island include.
Alcohol Addiction – The alcohol addiction statistics in Long Island are grim. Suffolk County has had more DUI-related crashes than any other area of New York every year since 2001. Nassau County is in close second. In 2013, Suffolk recorded 853 alcohol-related crashes, accounting for 10 percent of the state’s total. To the credit of law enforcement and prevention advocates, however, they’re recognizing the urgent need for reform and enacting new measures to try and curb the problem. For example, Suffolk County now deploys a team of police officers five nights a week in what they have termed “saturation patrol” in areas with a high concentration of drunk-driving incidents. Other elements of progress include better access to alcohol abuse treatment centers and more advanced care for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Opiate and Opioid Addiction – The need for proper opiate addiction treatment in Long Island has never been more urgent. Once again Suffolk County finds itself at the center of the problem, tallying more than 100 opiate deaths in 2015 for the third straight year, and, as is the case with alcohol, accounting for more than 10 percent of all statewide figures. Narcan deployments are at an all-time high in the area. The demand for the lifesaving drug has been so large that in March, Governor Cuomo announced plans to make it available without a prescription. Opioid-related emergency room visits increased 73 percent throughout New York from 2010-2014. In 2013 the state saw 952 deaths from prescription painkillers. In an effort to further prevent dependency, and address physician culpability, the legislature has recently instituted a seven-day limit on initial prescription painkiller dispensation. The changes also require insurers to cover initial inpatient drug treatment without prior approval; extend from 48 to 72 hours the time someone can be held for emergency treatment; and add 2,500 addiction-treatment slots statewide.
One of the glaring obstacles that users encounter when seeking substance abuse treatment is the simple issue of supply and demand. As the area continues to develop more comprehensive substance abuse recovery strategies, Long Island must address the fundamental issue of access to quality addiction care. The aforementioned measure signed by Governor Cuomo on Wednesday will allow for 270 more treatment beds and 2,335 additional program slots, increasing access however incrementally. One question remains in the midst of all of these reforms: Will they be enough to stop the spread of drug and alcohol abuse, and save lives in the Long Island community?