Watchdog: Accountability

New York painkiller law sends addicts to deadly street drugs, investigation finds

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Some New York addicts have been driven to heroin and other street drugs because of a new state law to curb access to addictive painkillers.

A law passed by the New York state legislature last August has worked well in preventing access to opioid drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal investigation.

But with their painkiller supply cut off, addicted people have turned to heroin and other mixed street drugs.

In February, about 280 people overdosed in Dutchess County from street drugs laced with a narcotic called fentanyl. Seven men died.

"Users weren't able to get to the pills any longer so the heroin was the next best substitute," said Detective Sgt. John Zeltmann, former coordinator of the Dutchess County Drug Task Force and a Poughkeepsie police officer.

In Dutchess County, 14 of 25 heroin deaths in 2013 occurred since the I-STOP law went into effect — or more than half the deaths in one quarter of the year, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.

"I thought it was very well-meaning, and it's worked," Detective Lt. Ed Brewster, commander of the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team or URGENT, said of the law.

"Obviously this is the consequence to it."

State figures show the I-STOP system has performed 3 million checks on people before approving them for prescriptions to addictive drugs, according to the investigation.

Read the full article here.

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