Heroin overdoses on rise in Rockland, DA says

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Zugibe: “… trying to
educate doctors

RIVERVALE, NJ – Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, addressing the current opioid and heroin epidemic in New York State, told business leaders at the Rockland Business Association on Thursday afternoon that there is larger, underlying causality stemming from unsafe prescription practices.
Zugibe said the current heroin problem within the state, and county, is unlike any he has ever seen.
The DA was promoted to head of the Drug Task Force in Rockland in 1982 and said, since then, heroin has become an entirely different thing. It is more potent, making it easier to take by forms other than injection; it is often times cut with other potent opioids like Fentanyl, making user dosage extremely variable. Despite the county’s best efforts, overdoses have continued to rise since 2014, even though life-saving drugs like Narcan (Naloxone) are now more available.
This, Zugibe believes, is a result of gratuitous and unsafe prescribing
practices of opioid pain-killers by doctors. The way Zugibe described
it was: the big-pharma companies, which create a majority of the generic,
synthetic opiate pain-killers like Oxycodone, have“incredible lobbying
powers,” making legislative action against not as desirable for
elected officials. This has led to the continuation of the legally acceptable
practice of prescribing narcotic pain-killers for 30 days, which Zugibe
believes is how many heroin addicts are initially getting hooked, for
any injury or surgery, when in reality, approximately a week’s worth
of narcotic pain-killers is usually sufficient.
This is why Zugibe said the county is focusing on not just educating the public.
“What Rockland is trying to do is educate the doctors,” said Zugibe. “We’re taking a lead on that to say, ‘Hey, we believe the primary cause of this opium epidemic is the marketing efforts of the pharmaceutical companies leading the doctors to over-prescribing, causing these addictions that compel the use of heroin in the end, when the money supply runs out,’ and we’re really taking a lead on the supply side to this heroin epidemic to, really, go after and stop these prescribing habits so we don’t have a whole new group of addicts coming up.”
Rockland Business Association President Al Samuels said, although the RBA may not be a group that is directly involved, or affected by, the heroin epidemic, it is important to have the DA come to speak about the issue because the members of the RBA are people who can most effectively help spread this education to the greater community.