By NICHOLAS BAKALARDrug overdose fatalities in New York City tripled between 1990 and 2006, a new study reports, and most of the increase came from the growing abuse of prescription pain medicines.
By 2006, the rate of prescription analgesic overdose fatality among white men was twice as high as that among Latinos and almost three times as high as the rate among blacks. Rates of heroin fatalities in 2006 were about the same as in 1990, while methadone deaths peaked in 1991 and 2006.
Pain medicines were the only types of overdose to increase steadily over the period, and by 2006 they accounted for 15.6 percent of all fatalities, up from 3.9 percent in 1990. The increase was attributable entirely to deaths among white and Latino men.
“Traditionally, we’ve understood the abuse of prescription opioids to be a rural problem, but we actually see that this is an increasing problem in urban areas as well,” said the lead author, Magdalena Cerdá, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia. “Opioid abuse in urban areas deserves attention, too.”
The authors, writing online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, also found geographical differences in drug abuse. There were lower rates of poverty in neighborhoods with high rates of analgesic overdose fatalities, and methadone overdoses were concentrated in low-income areas.
A version of this article appeared in print on 02/12/2013, on page D4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Patterns: Rise in Drug Overdose Deaths.
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