The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has estimated that 12% of the state’s residents above the age of 12 have a problem with abuse or addiction (2010 figure). This translates to an estimated 1.9 million residents of New York State grappling with a substance abuse problem.

To reduce the impact of drugs and alcohol, New York State has undertaken several interventions, including enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors. New York also increased alcohol taxes to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and its associated harmful effects. Reducing the number of days on which alcoholic beverages can be sold was also found to be an effective strategy in New York. The state regulates alcohol outlet density through licensing and zoning processes. Also, several model programs for substance abuse prevention have been implemented in New York. [1]

Some of the key figures that demonstrate the problem of substance abuse and addiction in New Yorkers above the age of 12 are listed below (percentages rounded off): [2] [3]

  • 53% of New Yorkers report past-month alcohol use.
  • 24% of New Yorkers report past-month binge alcohol use.
  • 15% of New Yorkers report past-year marijuana use.
  • 10% of New Yorkers report past-month marijuana use.
  • 11% of New Yorkers report past-month illicit drug use.
  • 3% of New Yorkers report pain reliever misuse in the past year.
  • 2.5% of New Yorkers report past-year cocaine use.
  • 0.3% of New Yorkers report past-year heroin use.
  • 0.3% of New Yorkers report past-year methamphetamine use.
  • 5% of New Yorkers have had alcohol use disorder in the past year.
  • 7% of New Yorkers have had substance use disorder in the past year.
  • 5% of New Yorkers need but are not receiving treatment for alcohol use.
  • 3% of New Yorkers need but are not receiving treatment for illicit drug use.

Alcohol Dependence in New York

Excessive alcohol use is a public health problem in New York State. Nearly 20% of adults and 22% of high school students report binge drinking (2011 figures). Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths and more than 110,000 years of potential life lost each year in New York. Alcohol consumption per person above the age of 14 is 2.1 gallons per year (2010 figure) which is comparable to the national average of 2.3 gallons per person per year for the United States. [4]

It is estimated that 15% of New York City residents are excessive alcohol drinkers (the figure is estimated to be 22% in Manhattan). Around 135,000 New York City residents are treated for alcohol abuse each year with the rate of alcohol dependence being highest among Whites, followed by Hispanics and Blacks. [5]

The economic burden of excessive alcohol consumption in New York State is estimated to be $14 billion. Yet, the state’s beer and wine excise taxes continue to be among the lowest ($0.14 per gallon of beer and $0.30 per gallon of wine in 2012). Studies have shown that a 10% increase in the price of beer and wine can reduce consumption by 5%.

Underage Drinking in New York State

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among adolescents. Underage drinking is a leading public health concern in New York and costs the state $3.3 billion (2010 figure) in terms of medical care, work loss, and associated problems. This translates to $1,700 per youth per year. There are an estimated 850,000 underage youth who drink alcohol in New York State each year.[6]

Interestingly, underage drinking metrics measured in a 2008 survey found that it is a bigger problem in New York compared to national averages. For instance, 79% of high school seniors in New York State have used alcohol (national average 72%). Similarly, 49% of high school seniors report past month alcohol use (national average 43%) and 31% report binge drinking in New York (national average 25%). Another worrisome statistic is that 14% of New York State 8th graders report drinking within the past 30 days.

In response to these numbers, the State of New York recommended various measures, including gathering data and recommendations from parent groups, schools, and law enforcement, holding a statewide symposium on underage drinking, and mandatory alcohol and drug prevention orientation for all college freshmen. The OASAS in New York State developed the Underage Drinking: Not a Minor Problem program to aid parents in talking to adolescents about the consequences of underage drinking.

Marijuana Legalization in New York

The State of New York allows limited use of medical marijuana. A maximum of 20 dispensaries is permitted to operate in the state to prescribe non-smokable marijuana preparations like edibles and tinctures to people with certain medical conditions that are on the state list. [7]

As of 2020, there are efforts to legalize marijuana in New York as part of criminal justice reforms because communities of color are disproportionately affected by marijuana laws. It is believed that legalizing marijuana could bring the state $300 million in tax revenue and generate substantial amounts of economic activity. [8]

The Opioid Epidemic in New York State

Like many other states, New York is suffering an opioid epidemic. In 2017, there were more than 3,200 opioid overdose deaths in New York State. Of these, roughly 1,000 deaths involved commonly prescribed opioids, 1,300 involved heroin, and 2,200 involved synthetic (lab-made) opioids. Between 2010 and 2017, there was a staggering 200% increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths in New York. Most of this increase was driven by synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.

In terms of treatment for opioid use disorders, there were more than 25,500 hospital discharges for opioid use including overdose and dependence. The highest rates of opioid abuse were noted in the 25-44 age group and among Hispanics. Opioid abuse in New York State is 2.5 times higher in males than females. New York City has a higher rate of opioid abuse compared to the state average.

Nearly 12,500 New York State residents visited emergency departments in 2017 due to opioid overdose, an 11% increased compared to the previous year. In 2018, more than 62,000 individuals reported abusing opioids upon admission to certified chemical dependency treatment programs in the state. [9]

Methamphetamine Abuse in New York

Methamphetamine is a relatively low but ever-present threat to New York State. Meth abuse is generally limited to specific segments of the population such as outlawed motorcycle gangs and some members of the gay community, but meth abuse is on the rise among college students.

Most of the meth that is sold in New York comes from California and other southwestern states. It is typically transported in lots of up to 1 kg by couriers on commercial flights. However, some meth labs have been discovered on Long Island and in Upstate New York. Local dealers sell methamphetamine at New York nightclubs, raves, and techno parties. [10]

Cocaine Abuse in New York

Crack/cocaine is a serious threat in New York State where the drug is readily available and often associated with more violent crime than any other illicit drug. New York City is a major distribution center and transportation hub for cocaine by Colombian and Dominican drug cartels. Also, Mexican criminal groups are establishing an increasing presence in the state. [11]

In the late 1990s, cocaine use showed a worrisome upward trend in New York with increased cocaine-related admissions to publicly funded substance abuse treatment facilities. The figures were significantly higher for New York State compared to national averages. In the year 2000, there were nearly 500 cocaine-related deaths in the New York metropolitan area.

On a more optimistic note, the percentage of youth who report cocaine use in New York is lower than the nationwide rate. Nonetheless, nearly 7% of high school students in New York reported using cocaine at least once in their lifetime when surveyed in 1999 (national average 9.5%).

Benzodiazepine Abuse in New York

Since 1989, the New York State Department of Health began regulating benzodiazepines and required all prescriptions to be written on official triplicate forms. This regulation significantly reduced the diversion and abuse of benzos. One study found a 95% reduction in benzodiazepine diversion and a 76% reduction in prescriptions dispensed at pharmacies suspected of being pill mills. The regulation also led to an increase in the street price of benzos. Between 1988 and 1989, emergency room admissions for benzodiazepine overdoses declined and there was a saving of $18 million in public funds. [12]

Drug Use Trends in New York State

In 2009-2010, New York was in the top 10 among all US states in various categories, such as illicit drug dependence and past-year cocaine use by individuals above the age of 12. Compared to the national average of 8.8%, in New York State 9.8% of residents reported use of illicit drugs in the past month. However, fortunately, the rate of drug-induced deaths in New York is lower than the national average.

The most common drug addictions treated at treatment centers in New York are heroin, marijuana and cocaine. In 2011, one-third of all admissions to addiction treatment centers in New York were for heroin addiction. [13]

Last updated: January 8, 2021

References

1 New York Department of Health. Priority Area: Mental Health/Substance Abuse. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
2 SAMHSA. New York State Specific Tables. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
3 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
4 CDC. Prevention Status report 2013 New York. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
5 To SE. Alcohol dependence patterns and their impact on New York CityMedGenMed. 2007;9(1):23. Published 2007 Feb 1. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
6 OASAS. Advisory Council on Underage Alcohol Consumption Annual Report 2011. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
7 New York Marijuana Laws. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
8 The New York Times. Marijuana Will Be Legalized in New York in 2020, Cuomo Vows. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
9 New York Department of Health. New York State Opioid Annual Report 2019. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
10 National Drug Intelligence Center. New York Drug Threat Assessment. Methamphetamines. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
11 National Drug Intelligence Center. New York Drug Threat Assessment. Cocaine. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
12 National Criminal Justice Reference Service. New York State’s Regulation Placing Benzodiazepines on Triplicate Prescriptions. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.
13 New York Drug Control Update. Available online. Accessed on January 4, 2021.