Drug Use Trends in New York City, New York: June 2013

Rozanne Marel, Ph.D., Robinson B. Smith, M.A., and Gregory Rainone, Ph.D.

Summary of Key Findings for the 2012 Reporting Period:

  • There was continuing predominance in indicators for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
  • There was also an increase in the use and consequences of opiate analgesics.

This report describes drug patterns and trends for the five boroughs of New York City in 2012.


While cocaine remained a major problem in New York City, cocaine indicators were mixed for this reporting period. Primary cocaine treatment admissions declined in 2012 to the lowest level in more than two decades, but many clients in treatment had a primary, sec­ondary, or tertiary problem with cocaine. Cocaine ranked second, just behind marijuana/cannabis, among reports from drug items ana­lyzed in National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) laboratories; it was detected in 33 percent of all drug reports. Arrestee Drug Abuse Moni­toring (ADAM) II program data for 2012 showed significant decreases in cocaine use among male arrestees in Manhattan compared with earlier years, but there was no significant change since 2010. There were more drug-involved emergency department (ED) visits in the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) for cocaine than for any other drug, and these increased by 36 percent between 2004 and 2011. 


Heroin also remained a major problem in New York City, with heroin indicators mixed in this reporting period. More than one-quarter of all primary treatment admissions were for heroin in 2012.  Among primary heroin treatment admissions, the percentage of injectors increased to 44 percent. Purity for South Ameri­can heroin rose to 37.5 percent pure from 31.6 percent pure in 2010; the price per milligram pure rose from $0.92 to $0.99. Eleven percent of all NFLIS reports were for heroin in 2012. DAWN data revealed no significant changes for heroin. ADAM II data for male arrestees in Manhattan showed significant decreases in opiate use for 2012..


Marijuana indica­tors remained at a high level, although most were stable or decreasing after several years of increases. Marijuana primary treatment admissions decreased but still represented one-quarter of all primary treatment admissions. More than one-third of reports among drug items analyzed in NFLIS laboratories were identified as marijuana, the most of any drug. One-half of male arrestees tested positive for marijuana, the highest of all drugs, and ADAM II data revealed significant increases in marijuana use. Many kinds of prescription drugs were available, and the indicators appeared to be increasing.


According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, opioid analgesic death rates increased by 65 percent between 2005 and 2011, and these death rates increased by 261 percent on Staten Island. According to the New York State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data, opioid analgesic prescriptions in New York City increased by 31 percent between 2008 and 2011, and oxycodone prescriptions increased by 73 per­cent during that period.  DAWN data revealed an increase of 168 percent in opiates/opiate ED visits between 2004 and 2011. Oxycodone ED visits increased by 459 percent between 2004 and 2011, while hydrocodone ED visits decreased between 2009 and 2011.  DAWN benzodiazepine visits increased 134 percent between 2004 and 2011, and alprazolam visits increased 164 percent during that period. According to ADAM II data, only 0.5 percent of male arrestees in Manhattan tested positive for oxycodone.


Methamphetamine indicators remained relatively low. Primary methamphetamine treatment admissions, drug reports for methamphetamine among drug items analyzed in NFLIS laboratories, and proportions of ADAM II arrestees with positive tests for methamphetamine were all at very low levels. Although only 576 DAWN ED visits in 2011 involved methamphetamine, this represented increases of 169 percent since 2004 and 66 percent since 2009.  PCP (phencyclidine) ranked sixth on the NFLIS list. There were 3,239 DAWN ED visits involving PCP in 2011; this was an increase of 618 percent since 2004, 194 percent since 2009, and 60 percent since 2010.


There were 113,319 New Yorkers living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) as of December 31, 2011. This represented an increase of 28.4 percent from 2001. There were 3,404 new diagnoses of HIV in 2011: 77.7 percent were among men and 78 percent were among Blacks and Hispanics. Deaths from all causes declined 27.4 percent since 2007. For the first time, more than one-half of all new HIV diagnoses were among men who have sex with men.

For inquiries regarding this report, contact Rozanne Marel, Ph.D., Assistant Chief of Epidemiology, New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, 501 7th Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10018, Phone: 646–728–4605, Fax: 646–728–4685,  E-mail:  RozanneMarel@oasas.ny.gov.