While there is no silver bullet for solving an opioid epidemic that has claimed the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, the surest way to stem the tide is by preventing addiction from occurring in the first place. Fortunately, state lawmakers have a golden opportunity to begin doing this by expanding access to medical marijuana treatments that can provide patients a valuable alternative to addictive prescription drugs.
What’s clear is that policymakers must be open to a range of approaches for curbing New York’s escalating opioid crisis. A recent Rockefeller Institute study found opioid-related deaths are surging in New York City and across the state. From 2015 to 2016, opioid-related deaths increased by 39 percent in the city and 23 percent throughout the rest of the state, as New York’s drug death rate climbed from 34th worst in the country to 27th worst. Overall, the state has seen a staggering 121 percent increase in opioid deaths since 2010.
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In response to this increasing public health crisis, lawmakers have taken several steps in recent years to try to reverse the trend. This has included more than $25 million in federal funding to expand services for those with opioid-use disorders in counties that have been hit hardest by the crisis. In February, Governor Cuomo announced $10 million in state funding for detox withdrawal services.
While these funds are critical for helping those who have fallen victim to opioid addiction, they should be part of a multifaceted effort that includes greater access to effective treatment alternatives to opioid-based prescription drugs — a major gateway to