There’s a battlefront in New York City’s war on drugs, and it doesn’t involve crack cocaine or heroin.
Prescription painkiller abuse is now one of the top concerns for law enforcement officials and doctors.
New York City has seen an 80 percent increase from 2007 to 2010 in admissions to crisis drug treatment programs for those addicted to pills like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, according to state health officials.
“It’s a fast-growing problem in northern Manhattan as it is across New York City,” said the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, at a meeting last week with White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske to discuss the burgeoning epidemic.
Painkiller addiction poses a unique challenge because of the medical infrastructure. “These drugs are prescribed by doctors and obtained through legitimate pharmacies,” Brennan said.
Young adults and teens are particularly at risk for pill addiction, warns Dr. Deni Carise, chief clinical officer at the Phoenix House rehab center, because of the availability of drugs in their homes and the existence of “pill parties.” “Everyone grabs pills from medicine cabinets, puts them in a bowl, takes a handful and sees what happens,” said Carise.