A report released on Friday shows that drug overdose deaths in Queens County surged during the pandemic in parallel with recently-released national data, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
“In 2020, there were 391 overdose deaths, a 45.5 percent increase over 2019, when there were 268 overdose deaths. There is no question that the pandemic, which fueled a national drug abuse crisis, also hit us hard here in our borough,” Katz said in a press release.
Katz noted that there were nearly five times as many drug overdose deaths as the 82 homicides in Queens last year. The overwhelming majority of them were attributed to fentanyl, a highly potent opioid. According to data compiled from the NYPD and the Office of the City Medical Examiner, 71 percent of all suspected drug overdose deaths in Queens involved fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives.
“Fentanyl is a dangerous, lethal drug – and often people don’t even know they are taking it because it is mixed with other drugs or sold as pills. Addressing this epidemic remains one of the greatest public health challenges facing current and future generations of Queens residents," she wrote.
As highlighted in recently released federal data, Covid pandemic-related factors such as stress, job loss and lockdown restrictions have exacerbated the use of opioids and drastically increased reports of overdoses both across the nation and within Queens County.
In Queens, 313 men died from overdoses, accounting for 80 percent of the deaths, while the number of women was 78.
The worst-hit age demographic for men is those 31 to 40, accounting for 97 — or 31 percent — of the deaths. In women the heaviest-hit age group from 51 to 60 — or 29 percent. White men were most likely to overdose, with the racial demographics roughly following the makeup of the borough.
Across the country, 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Katz said that her office would remain committed to “equitable drug policies” and providing support through Queens treatment courts and specialized treatment courts.
The DA highlighted Queens Connect, a program in the Misdemeanor Treatment Court, as an example of her approach. The program provides participants with a variety of services, including an introduction to substance use and alcohol addiction treatment.
To find an addiction treatment provider, visit FindAddictionTreatment.ny.gov, call the 24/7 state hotline at 1(877) 846-7369 or text 467369 for free and confidential help.