Report: New York Had 29 Percent Increase in Drug Deaths from 2015 to 2016, the Largest Annual Increase in Drug-Related Deaths in Six Years

New Data Indicate that the Crisis is Not Slowing in New York

New York City Increases Outpaced Upstate in Reversal from Earlier Trends

Albany, NY — A new analysis of Center for Disease Control data by the Rockefeller Institute of Government shows a 29 percent increase in drug deaths in New York State from 2015 to 2016, the largest annual increase in the 2010-16 period.

While the analysis found decreases in annual deaths in several counties, overall the opioid epidemic worsened throughout the state, contrary to recent reports of a potential slowdown.

Policymakers across the nation have grappled with how to address the epidemic. The solutions have varied from the president of the United States declaring the problem a national public health emergency to once-unthinkable solutions in many communities, like safe injection sites.

“The data continue to show that New York’s opioid crisis is deepening, despite well-intentioned interventions at every level of government,” said Rockefeller Institute President Jim Malatras. “This will not come as a shock to anyone on the front lines of the crisis. Why the nation continues to struggle to slow the drug epidemic is a question that the Rockefeller Institute of Government is taking on. We’re examining problems with the data, which is critical to help fully understand the problem, as well as the policy disconnect between local responders and local, state, and federal lawmakers to help them move from problem to solution.”

Key findings from the new report include:

  • Drug deaths increased 29 percent from 2015 to 2016, the largest annual increase in the number of deaths between 2010 and 2016.
  • In a reverse from earlier data that showed a greater increase outside of New York City, drug deaths increased 39 percent in NYC and 23 percent in the rest of the state between 2015 and 2016.
  • The drug death rate in New York was 15.2 per every 100,000 people in 2015. In 2016, the rate was 19.7 per every 100,000 people.
  • There was a 31 percent increase in drug deaths among men and a 24 percent increase among women from 2015 to 2016.
  • Total opioid-related deaths among blacks increased 57 percent from 2015-16 compared to 26 percent for whites.
  • Over a year, from 2015 to 2016, New York’s drug death rate went from thirty-fourth to twenty-seventh in the nation — meaning New York got worse overall.

Read the full report.

To help policymakers better understand the full context of the crisis, the Rockefeller Institute of Government is taking a deep dive into the opioid epidemic in a rural upstate county. The ongoing series of reports, called Stories from Sullivan, will provide insight into what the opioid problem looks like in affected communities, how the communities are responding, and what kinds of policies have the best chances of making a difference. Follow the series at or on social media at #StoriesfromSullivan.