Heroin in the Bronx: A Constant

VIP Community Services in the Tremont area of the Bronx, where heroin addicts can get treatment. (Photo by Anton K. Nilsson via Norwood News)

VIP Community Services in the Tremont area of the Bronx, where heroin addicts can get treatment.
(Photo by Anton K. Nilsson via Norwood News)

The Bronx may be making some headway in changing its identity, but “heroin, by many measures, remains a constant in the Bronx,” writes David Cruz in a special report in Norwood News.

The media, says Cruz, may be focusing on the uptick in deaths due to heroin overdoses on Staten Island. But in the Bronx, trafficking and use of the drug have created their own set of grim statistics.

Its presence in the borough has consistently led to the most heroin overdose deaths in the city, according to 2010-2013 statistics by the New York City Health Department. Even more telling is that Hispanic men aged between 35-54 are most vulnerable to lethal heroin overdoses, according to figures. In 2013, Hispanic men contributed to 65 percent of heroin overdoses, a spike from the year before, when the rate was 56 percent.

What’s especially troubling about heroin use in the borough, notes Norwood News, is the extent to which it “simply seems accepted.”

Statistics by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) show that the same high risk areas in the year 2000, mainly neighborhoods with high poverty rates such as Hunts Point, Morrisania, Mott Haven and Melrose, overlap with the same high risk areas of today.

The stubborn 2010-2013 numbers by the New York City Health Department also indicate a problem that has not sprung overnight—heroin, as many experts and users confirm, has stood the test of time. The epidemic runs parallel to attempts made by the Bronx to shed its image of despair. It’s made even more complex by the effects borne of usage—poverty, crime (the Bronx District Attorney’s Office prosecutes 35 percent of drug cases) and a virtual lifetime of addiction.

“We see drugs that come and go. For a long time we were seeing ecstasy. It kind of fades away,” said Debra Vizzi, the executive director of VIP, an inpatient/outpatient drug rehab clinic. “Heroin has stayed.”

Read the lengthy report in Norwood News to find out why Vizzi has received death threats, and to learn why she believes that of all heroin users, Hispanics are the most prone to dying of an overdose.

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