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Staten Island Struggles With Heroin

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While concerns are being voiced and tragic stories are getting pressed, the battle against heroin in this country is far from over.

Heroin settles in to Staten Island

Earlier this month, The New York Times published an article titled Heroin’s New Hometown. In it, the author describes in sad detail how the drug is infiltrating both urban and suburban neighborhoods of the New York borough of Staten Island.

Once largely concentrated to Staten Island’s poorest areas and housing developments, heroin is no longer a problem afflicting only the poor. Today, it’s found its way to Staten Island’s working- and middle-class communities, often, though not always, a progressive step up from prescription painkiller abuse. The Times’ article discusses how heroin, despite its well-publicized dangers, has become a drug of choice because of its low cost to users and high profitability for dealers.

“Gradually, dealers and users switched to heroin. Some opioid addicts found that their habits required 20 or 30 pills a day, an unsustainable proposition at as much as $30 each. Heroin [being] about $5 to $10 for a single glassine, became a cheap alternative.”

The “cheap alternative,” of course, has pricey consequences. Not the least of which includes death. In 2012 (the most recent year of available health records), Staten Island saw 36 deaths from heroin overdoses, the highest statistic in at least 10 years. And a 2013 report published by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene showed that overdoses from analgesic opioids (prescription painkillers) jumped some 261% from 2005 to 2011, from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 to

11.2 per 100,000. This number was four times the rate of opioid overdose deaths in Manhattan and Queens, and three-and-half times that in the Bronx.

Law enforcement fights the battle, but is it enough?

According the New York Times’ article, from 2011 to 2013, the amount of heroin Staten Island Police have taken off the streets has increased 300%, and this year’s statistics aren’t showing any decline. As of April 2014, 1,700 glassine bags of heroin had been seized this year, and this number didn’t include an additional 347 bags that were seized in raids just a week before the article was published.

One of the biggest problems currently facing police is that the arrests they’re making are typically of small-time dealers. Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., Staten Island’s district attorney, explained how drug dealers are getting fairly small quantities of heroin in other areas around New York City and New Jersey, then dividing it up in small sellable units back on Staten Island.  “They’re not coming down with a kilo,” he said. “They’re going uptown and getting an ounce and then breaking it out.”

A dangerous new trend for the young

The article’s author interviewed several addicts at a Brooklyn drug treatment center, where many Staten Island parents have opted to send their loved ones to, as The Times puts it, “avoid the glare of those who would recognize them at facilities on Staten Island.” The oldest age mentioned of those interviewed was 29; she is an expectant mother named Nikki. The rest however, were all under the age of 25, proving sadly, that heroin does not discriminate against the young.

Getting help

Whether use stems from painkiller dependence or not, heroin is a highly addictive substance that eventually leads the user to a fork in the road: recovery or overdose. The case of Staten Island is unfortunately not unique. Heroin has touched the lives of many in America, and it’s time for users to take their lives back. If you need help for a substance abuse problem, or if someone you love does, please don’t wait another day. The Watershed is here to take your call: 1-800-861-1768.

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