Guest Op-Ed: Stopping the heroin epidemic

Heroin and prescription drug abuse has become a huge problem and is devastating middle class communities like ours. Unfortunately, statistics show it’s only getting worse, especially among our youth.

In fact, one-third of all heroin seizures nationwide occurred in New York State. This year, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to address the growing heroin and opioid epidemic rattling our neighborhood. All too frequently we hear tragic stories of a life lost to heroin or a family torn apart by drug abuse. I’m proud that my colleagues and I took action to try and stem the tide of addiction and prevent another epidemic.

From increasing prevention and awareness to ensuring treatment is available, each of these measures will work in concert to help stop the growing abuse of heroin and prescription drugs.

The measures we passed will save lives and help ensure that more people can get the help and support they need to overcome addiction. The legislation increases awareness and prevention efforts, ensures that the lifesaving antidote naloxone is used safely and effectively, increases access to treatment programs, and strengthens state law to prevent the distribution of illegal drugs.

Earlier this year, the opioid antidote naloxone was approved for widespread use and has since saved numerous lives by reversing the effects of heroin overdose. The legislation we passed will make sure that this lifesaving drug is administered properly in times of emergency.

Under the measure, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) will be authorized to consult with the Department of Health (DOH) to establish demonstration treatment programs statewide and also create the Opioid Addiction Treatment and Hospital Diversion Demonstration Program.

Additionally, the illegal sale of a controlled substance by a practitioner or pharmacist will now be a class C felony to help prosecute more of these crimes.

We must remain committed to reducing the number of tragedies related to heroin and opioid abuse in our neighborhoods. In addition to supporting these changes and legislation, it is important that those in the community work together to support those who ask for help and to teach our children how dangerous these drugs can be.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate represents the 49th A.D. which includes portions of Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, Boro Park and Sunset Park.

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