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Drug Addiction in New York


Drug addiction involves severely abusing an illicit substance in a way that is harmful to your well-being. Unfortunately, this form of substance abuse often progresses quickly. Drug addiction can cause negative, drastic changes to an addict’s life if they do not receive the proper support for the disease. The illness affects thousands of people in the state of New York on a daily basis. Although this may seem disheartening, it also means that the region offers a variety of accredited addiction rehabilitation centers. If you or a loved one suffers from an addiction to drugs, take the time to learn about the disease and the possibility for treatment in your area. Leave addiction behind, your new life awaits.


New York Drug Abuse Statistics

The most recent White House report on New York’s drug control statistics indicates that the state has one of the highest rates of drug dependence, especially among young adults age 18 to 25. About 10 percent of New Yorkers will use illicit drugs in a given month, higher than the national average of about nine percent. About 1.9 million New Yorkers will develop a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. The total economic cost to the state from drug abuse is estimated to be about $97 billion annually.

As with many other parts of the country, heroin use has skyrocketed to become New York’s primary drug problem. One-third of all treatment admissions in the state are for heroin. About 20 percent are for cocaine, and about 15 percent are for all other opium-derived drugs.

Between 2005 and 2011, opiate overdose deaths skyrocketed 65 percent in number. Particular areas of the state were hit very hard, such as Staten Island, where the overdose rate rose by 261 percent during this time. These numbers are very likely related to pain pill prescriptions, as prescriptions for OxyContin also rose 73 percent during this time.

In addition to the hazards posed by the drugs themselves, the sharing of syringes for the injection of street drugs also poses a major public health hazard. The city distributes almost two million clean syringes per year and also makes anonymous drop-off locations for used syringes widely available. This effort, which has been implemented over the past 20 years, has reduced the spread of new HIV cases among injection drug users by 95 percent.


The Most Commonly Abused Street Drugs

Opiates have received their name because they are derived from the opium poppy. The drugs that are at least partially synthetic, such as heroin and morphine, are more correctly referred to as opioids. While any substance derived from the opium poppy has high addiction potential, the synthetic opioids are the most potent by far.

As was briefly mentioned above, an opioid addiction very often starts with the use of pain pills such as OxyContin. In addition to being extremely effective at blocking pain, opium derivatives also give users a strong sense of euphoria. While the pills are considered medically safe to use for very short durations when recovering from surgery, pill users often get enough to continue using them after the pain is gone. When the prescription runs out or when they can no longer afford the pills, they most frequently turn to heroin as a substitute, which gives the same effect but costs six to seven times less.


Signs of Abuse

Signs and symptoms of someone abusing opiates can include nausea, confusion, slurred speech and skin irritation. When an addicted opiate user goes for too long without the substance, they will also experience powerful withdrawal symptoms: strong cravings, anxiety, irritability, muscle aches, diarrhea and sweating among a number of other unpleasant symptoms.


Drug Schedules

Heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug, because it is extremely addictive and has no legitimate medical usage. Oxycodone and morphine are classified as Schedule II drugs because they have significant chance for addiction and abuse, but also have legitimate medical use. Products containing less than 90mg of codeine per dosage are considered Schedule III drugs, with a moderate to low potential for abuse and addiction.


Health Risks

Short-term effects of opiate abuse are relatively mild, which is partially why addictions develop so quickly. Users may initially experience shallow breathing, a sense of confusion or “brain fog,” nausea and vomiting. The long-term effects of abuse are devastating, however. Addicts run a much greater risk for cardiovascular infection, liver and kidney disease, and arthritis. Users who inject heroin almost always get abscesses and can also collapse their veins, and are at risk for communicable diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C when they share needles.



Cocaine is a white powder derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows throughout Central and Southern America. It is a type of amphetamine, giving the user a short but very intense feeling of energy and well-being. Cocaine is one of the more expensive street drugs, and abuse is more commonly seen in wealthier communities. Crack cocaine, a mixture of baking soda and cocaine that is also often cut with even more dangerous substances, is much more inexpensive and has become an epidemic in poorer communities. Crack cocaine provides a similarly intense and short-lived rush, but is even more addictive.


Signs of Abuse

Users that are high on cocaine often appear to have an abundance of energy and will be very talkative. When they come down, however, they are often extremely lethargic and may appear depressed. The manic patterns often come after they have disappeared for some amount of time. Cocaine is most frequently snorted, so users may have traces of white powder around their nostrils. They may also have frequent runny noses or nosebleeds. Crack, on the other hand, is often smoked.

As with opiates, withdrawal symptoms are intense once the user is addicted. They experience many similar symptoms including strong cravings, anxiety, sleep disruptions and gastrointestinal symptoms. Crack users may also have hallucinations or become delusional and paranoid.


Drug Schedules

Cocaine is a Schedule II drug. Crack cocaine is also a Schedule II drug, but sentences for possession and sale have traditionally been higher than those for cocaine use. While this is possibly due to socioeconomic reasons, there is no denying that crack is more addictive and more damaging to health than cocaine.


Health Risks

In the short term, cocaine can disrupt the cardiovascular system and make the user’s behavior erratic and violent. The most devastating effects are reserved for those who continue to abuse it long-term, however. Those who snort it can eventually wear the cartilage in their nostrils down to nothing. They also face serious damage to the cardiovascular system, liver, kidneys and lungs. Cocaine users also frequently suffer from severe depression and experience sexual dysfunction.


Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is the common street name for methamphetamine, owing to its crystalline appearance. It is a synthetic drug made from many common materials, with the main ingredient being ephedrine, a substance found in some cold medicines and athletic supplements.


Signs of Abuse

As with cocaine, meth users appear to be very energetic, but the effect lasts for a much longer duration. Meth users can stay up for days at a time while high. Meth is also a potent appetite suppressant, therefore users may drop a lot of weight very quickly. A common effect of sustained use is the notorious “meth mouth,” or rapid decay of the teeth. This is a combination of the drug drying up salivary glands and a tendency for meth users to grind their teeth while high.


Drug Schedules

Even though meth is thought to be as addictive and damaging as heroin, it is still only a Schedule II drug as it has some very limited legitimate medical use.


Health Risks

Meth is one of the most taxing drugs on the body. Users who continue for years often appear to have aged decades in a short amount of time. Heavy users may experience psychosis for month or even years after they have quit the drug. Meth also inflicts brain damage over time, having a strong impact on motor skills and learning ability. Users are also at greater risk for a wide range of serious diseases.


Why So Addictive?

All of these street drugs have a similar effect on the brain. They alter the brains chemistry in ways that make it nearly impossible for the addict to experience any feelings of pleasure without it. Along with this a physical dependency develops, which is the cause of the potent withdrawal symptoms. Users may need to take the drug multiple times a day to keep these withdrawal symptoms at bay.


Treatment Options

Abuse of any of these drugs almost always requires an initial detox period of several days to a week. During this time, the patient is residing in a medical facility and is overseen constantly by professionals who administer medications as necessary to help subdue cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They may also attempt to diagnose any concurrent mental health disorders that may be contributing to the addiction.

Once these symptoms are properly managed, the patient may either move on to further residential treatment, or to outpatient treatment at home, largely depending on how severe their addiction is. Regardless, there is an addiction treatment program that can benefit the need of you or a loved one best. Explore your options for treatment in New York and overcome an addiction to street drugs once and for all.