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Number Of Heroin-Related Overdose Deaths On The Rise On Long Island

Heroin (file/credit: Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images)

Heroin (file/credit: Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New data shows heroin killed 110 people across Long Island last year, up from 96 in 2011.

A record 83 people died of heroin overdoses in Suffolk County last year as more addicts appeared to turn to the street drug amid a crackdown on prescription painkillers, officials said.

Records show the heroin problem is on the rise while the number of opiate overdose victims overall fell to 338 last year from 366 in 2011.

Authorities said that could be because fewer prescription pills are being sold on the street as a result of tighter pharmacy restrictions that were put in place following the murders of four people at a Medford pharmacy in June 2011.

“What we’ve seen is a movement away from prescription drugs as DEA and other authorities have clamped down on access to pills like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “We’ve seen individuals move over to the cheaper, more accessible drug and that’s heroin.”

The number of deaths from heroin and prescription drugs have been steadily rising over the past few years on Long Island.

“Five years ago, there were almost no overdoses related to heroin and prescription pills and now when you combine the two together the overdoses in both counties total about 370,” Reynolds said, adding that the increase in heroin-related deaths could be attributed to the addiction worsening over time when it is left untreated.

“If you needed to use one bag of heroin two years ago by now you’re using 12 to 15 bags of heroin a day in order to achieve the same effect,” Reynolds said.

The heroin problem on Long Island is also affecting a wide variety of people, including teenagers.

“In our minds we have an image of what a heroin user looks like and it’s not the perky 16-year-old cheerleader from Garden City or the North Shore of Long Island, it’s a guy stumbling around the Lower East Side of New York City,” Reynolds said.