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Drug and alcohol abuse is a national problem, affecting people from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old. No state in the US has been spared. In New York—ranked economically third in the country behind the much larger California and Texas, and known as the "Empire State" because of its immense wealth and resources--it's been estimated that nearly 500,000 residents use hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, and another one million have full-on alcohol use disorder. 14% of all deaths in the state of New York in the last 10 years were due to alcohol and drugs, and in 2016 there were over 9,000 car crashes involving drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. At large, it's estimated that over 1.9 million New Yorkers (1.77 million adults and 156,000 youth ages 12-17) have a substance abuse problem. These estimates make New York 38th in the nation for drug and alcohol addiction.
Much like the rest of the United States, the scourge of opioid addiction has blown through New York State like a tsunami, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. It's a particularly menacing foe because it's an addiction that can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Prescription painkillers (like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet) are highly addictive, in large part because they activate the powerful reward centers in the human brain. These drugs trigger the release of endorphins, (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters) which mask or interrupt your perception of pain and enhance feelings of pleasure and happiness, creating a short-lasting but extremely powerful sense of well-being. It's only human to love the feeling! And, when an opioid starts to wear off, it's in our very human nature to crave the return of that wonderful sense that everything is perfect and as it should be. This is the first step on the path toward addiction, and it can happen even to people who think they're being careful.
The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive drugs when, in many cases, Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. These drugs may seem safe, especially when doctors prescribe them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a downward spiral into the throes of full-on dependency. These drugs are stealing our family members, our sons, our daughters, and our very future.
New York State is estimated to have over 92,000 individual opioid users. And sadly, in contrast, just 21,600 opioid users initiated drug treatment in 2006.
While prescription painkiller abuse already ruins countless lives, unfortunately it can also send people down far darker paths. Opioids often lead to heroin addiction, (as heroin is cheaper than the pills, and usually far easier to obtain on the street.) The spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug abusers often then turn to incredibly powerful and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, which sooner or later result in a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
Heroin overdose is currently the leading cause of accidental death in New York state and the most commonly cited drug among the state's drug treatment admissions. In 2011, one third of treatment admissions in New York were for heroin.
From 2005-2014, upstate New York has seen a shocking 222% increase in admissions to treatment programs among those 18 to 24 years of age for heroin and other opioids, and Long Island has seen a 242% increase among the same age group for heroin and other opioids.
A 2010 study took a wider look at the substances most commonly abused by youth in New York State, and the numbers give cause for concern.
3% of New York high school students report they've used pain relievers in a manner not directed by a doctor in the past year.
While examining the numbers can make the problem seem insurmountable, the good news for New York residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. We are more connected now than ever and "The Empire State" is awash in resources, whether you just need counseling, a larger community-based approach, or full-on detox services. All it takes is the courage to take the first, terrifying step. Embrace the pain that got you here. Use it, own it, and move past it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
New York State Facts
New York Population: 18,975,234
Law Enforcement Officers in New York: 80,036
New York Prison Population: 102,900
New York Probation Population: 198,042
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 17
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in New York
Cocaine: 1,527.6 kgs.
Heroin: 330.4 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 10.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 6,961.2 kgs.
Ecstasy: 182,993 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 13 (DEA, state, and local)
New York Drug Situation: New York City has long been home to numerous drug trafficking organizations. The city’s large, diverse, multi-class population creates a demand that these organizations are more than willing to serve. New York City also acts as the source for organizations that smuggle drugs to other East Coast destinations and to Canada and Europe. Due to successful drug initiatives and enforcement operations undertaken in the New York metropolitan area, many drug traffickers are moving their illegal operations to the upstate region to earn greater profits, elude law enforcement, and avoid competition from rival drug groups.
Cocaine in New York: Colombia-based distributors continue to supply New York’s top cocaine rings, dominated by Dominican violators. These traffickers regularly smuggle multi-hundred kilogram shipments of cocaine to New York and then distribute the cocaine in smaller amounts through many networks in the metropolitan area. New York City based cocaine distribution organizations also serve as the source of supply to organizations operating throughout the eastern United States. Most of the cocaine entering New York is smuggled in by vehicles from large distribution centers in border areas (Texas, Arizona, California, and Florida). Mexican violators are prominent in this large scale cocaine transportation, and also are becoming involved in local wholesale distribution. Cocaine is also a significant problem in Albany and western New York State. Most cocaine distributors in the Albany area have connections to sources in New York City, but some direct links have been found with Florida and Puerto Rico. Seizures of wholesale amounts in Buffalo are frequently made at the airport and train station and weigh from one-half to four kilograms each.
Crack cocaine is readily available in economically depressed areas in all major New York cities, along with some suburban and semi-rural areas, and is occasionally a source of violence in upstate cities. Such violence usually occurs when new dealers challenge more established dealers over territory.
Heroin in New York: Heroin is readily available from Colombian, ethnic Chinese, and Dominican organizations operating in the New York metropolitan area. Most of the heroin available is of South American origin and Colombia-based traffickers bring some of the purest heroin in the world to the streets of New York, utilizing the same distribution methods and money-laundering techniques they perfected in capturing the cocaine market. In some cases, the same organizations are distributing both cocaine and heroin. Much of the Colombian heroin is smuggled into New York by couriers and ingesters arriving at JFK Airport, on direct flights from Colombia, or after stopovers in Central or South America, or the Caribbean. Colombian heroin trafficking organizations have also developed increasingly sophisticated smuggling methods, including use of cargo shipments, soaking heroin into clothing, and chemically impregnating heroin into plastic, which is then molded into common shapes. The heroin is subsequently recovered using chemical extraction processes. Colombian heroin is also smuggled to New York via Mexico and then by vehicle from the southwest United States, similar to the cocaine route. The heroin trafficking and abuse problem is increasing in upstate New York. Dealers in upstate regions often buy heroin in New York City and then return to their home areas via auto, bus, or train. Most heroin sold upstate is first cut and packaged in New York City and then recut and repackaged locally. Currently, some of the high-purity products are finding their way directly to users who are often unaccustomed to the strength. Buffalo is also a port of entry for Southeast Asian heroin from Toronto en route to New York City and Detroit.
Methamphetamine in New York: While methamphetamine trafficking and abuse in New York State is a less serious problem when compared to heroin, cocaine, crack, and MDMA, there are indicators that the problem is increasing. New York has a somewhat bifurcated methamphetamine market. In the New York City area, the market is primarily for crystal methamphetamine sourced from the West Coast of the United States. Use is not widespread, although it is increasing among some subculture groups, especially gay males. The upstate market is primarily methamphetamine powder supplied by local clandestine labs, which are becoming more common. Seizures of low yield, small methamphetamine labs have been increasing in rural New York since 2000, especially in the counties south of Syracuse.
Club Drugs in New York: New York continues to experience high levels of importation, trafficking, and abuse of MDMA (Ecstasy). Belgium and the Netherlands remain the main locations for manufacturing and exporting MDMA. Currently, organized crime groups, many controlled by Israeli traffickers, dominate the importation and distribution of MDMA in New York. They differ somewhat from more traditionally structured organized criminal groups and exist as loose confederations rather than organizations with a rigid hierarchical structure. However, many established heroin and cocaine trafficking organizations have entered the MDMA market because of the high profit margin. Within New York, wholesale quantity transactions typically occur in residences, and at the retail level, the drug is sold to users at nightclubs or raves. Almost all MDMA pills are sold with logos stamped on, creating brands for users to seek out. Many of those brands are specifically designed to appeal to teenagers. Other dangerous drugs, while available, are less prominent problems in New York City.
Marijuana in New York: Most of the marijuana entering the New York City area, and some upstate regions, is smuggled via air freight or auto/truck transport from Florida or the Southwestern United States. Significant amounts also arrive via commercial overnight package services. Jamaican criminal organizations are most prominent in moving marijuana from Texas and Arizona to New York. Upstate regions receive marijuana from the Southwestern United States, and there are continuous reports of local indoor grow operations. Canada is also a source for a significant quantity of marijuana entering New York State, primarily indoor grow marijuana.
New York DEA Response: DEA’s New York Field Division works closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to dismantle major drug trafficking organizations importing and/or trafficking drugs in New York State. In May 2003, DEA/New York, working with FBI, ICE, NYPD and People’s Republic of China (PRC) law enforcement authorities, culminated a two-year investigation with the largest simultaneous joint enforcement operation in the history of U.S.-Chinese law enforcement. The investigation, named Operation CITY LIGHTS, targeted a Chinese organization trafficking multi-hundred units of heroin to New York and the United States. The organization was dismantled when more than 13 units of heroin were seized and more than 35 people were arrested worldwide in an unprecedented example of U.S./PRC cooperation. In October 2003, DEA/New York, along with numerous other U.S. and international law enforcement agencies, completely dismantled an European based MDMA trafficking organization. The organization was responsible for the trafficking and distribution of MDMA from the Netherlands to the United States. The investigation culminated in the seizure of 650,000 tablets of MDMA, approximately 42,000 Euros, 20 kilograms of cocaine, and the arrest of 43 targets. The Government of the Dominican Republic government was instrumental in the arrest of several of these targets, currently awaiting extradition to the United States. In December 2003, a DEA/New York investigation was culminated with over 30 arrests and the complete dismantling of an extremely violent drug robbery crew active since 1998. The crew was responsible for distributing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin in the New York metropolitan area and obtained a large amount of their cocaine and heroin by committing violent home invasion robberies of other drug dealers, often in large apartment buildings, endangering the public. Usually armed during the robberies, members of the organization subdued, restrained, assaulted, and tortured victims. The crew was responsible for over 93 drug related robberies. In February 2004, a joint DEA/New York and Internal Revenue Service investigation culminated New York’s most extensive methamphetamine investigation in several years with the arrest of eight individuals in Operation CHELSEA CONNECTION. Overall, during the seven month investigation 15 arrests were made, and 17 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and $312,000 in cash and bank accounts were seized, dismantling the highest level crystal methamphetamine organization active in New York City.
DEA/New York currently has 631 employees and 199 State/Local Deputized Task Force Officers stationed in eight cities and towns in the state of New York.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been 19 MET deployments in the State of New York since the inception of the program: Niagara Falls, Southampton, Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Amsterdam, Utica, Monticello, Watertown, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Mt. Vernon, Liberty, Hempstead, Spring Valley, Fallsburg, Geneva, and Kingston.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of New York.
DEA Special Topics: New York City is one of the world’s financial capitals, presenting numerous options for the movement and laundering of drug proceeds. Private banking facilities, offshore banking, wire systems, shell corporations, and trade financing have been used to mask illegal activity. Money has also been laundered through currency exchange houses, stock brokerage houses, casinos, automobile dealerships, insurance companies, precious metal and gem dealers, and trading companies. Most recently, cyberlaundering and the emergence of e-cash provide an extremely expeditious means of moving large amounts of money. Additionally, numerous large scale money transportation and/or money laundering organizations are active in New York, servicing national and international drug organizations. These transportation/laundering organizations routinely conduct multi-hundred thousand dollars “pick ups” of drug cash from trafficking groups. The black market peso exchange and the “hawala” alternate remittance system are also used to move drug proceeds. Despite the extensive financial systems available in New York, many trafficking organizations opt to physically smuggle bulk cash out of the area and/or out of the United States.