City pill popping drives heroin use

Last January, NYPD?officers pulled over a car at 21st Street and 10th Avenue and found a trove of more than 3,100 pills in the console, all bound to be sold on the black market.

New Yorkers are popping so many painkillers that prescriptions for oxycodone have doubled citywide since 2007 — leading some into harder drugs like heroin, which prosecutors say is actually cheaper to procure in New York than pills.

A new report released this month from the city’s Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor details an “alarming surge” of prescription pill abuse.

One million oxycodone prescriptions were filled last year citywide. On Staten Island, a local hotbed for prescription drug abuse, enough prescriptions were filled in 2010 to supply so-called “oxy” to one in every four residents, prosecutors claim.

Thousands of New Yorkers are illegally buying and selling pills, according to the Aug. 10 report. Many hooked on Percocet or Vicodin find them so expensive that they turn to heroin instead, special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in the report.

A heroin habit could be as low as $10 to $20 per day, according to Dr. Arnold Washton, director of Recovery Option, a Midtown-based drug treatment center. Pills on the black market, meanwhile, can be $5 to $10 each, Washton explains, and an  addict might take 10 to 20 pills a day.

Washton said he has watched businessmen turn to heroin when prescription pills no longer gave them the high they sought.

“Drugs like Vicodin, oxycodone, Percocet, they’re extremely appealing,” Washton said. “The drugs work very well and foster the illusion that one can go through life without anxiety and pain.”

Illegal prescription pill operations cropped up all over the city last year — cops found 2,000 pills in a Chelsea woman’s 19th Street apartment and a Staten Island ring selling pills out of an ice cream truck.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.


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