ALBANY, 05/15/17 - The heroin crisis continues to hurt people everywhere – destroying lives, families, and communities. As a member of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, I have crafted new laws to address this growing public health epidemic and helped secure state funding, including $214 million in this year’s state budget, to strengthen prevention, treatment, recovery and education services.
The job is far from complete. That’s why the senate just passed eight bills to address the evolving challenges presented by fentanyl and synthetic drugs, and help increase coordination among health care personnel to prevent future opioid overdoses and abuse.
Six measures target the increased use of synthetic and “designer” drug combinations that escape criminal prosecution through loopholes in existing laws while two measures will help promote information sharing to prevent the abuse of prescription and other drugs, among other benefits of health care coordination. I am hopeful these bills will receive swift approval by the state assembly and be sent to the governor for his final approval.
Senate bill 933 adds new derivatives of fentanyl to the controlled substance schedule and increases criminal penalties for the sale of an opiate containing a fentanyl derivative. Fentanyl is a strong pain medication that is often combined with anesthesia to prevent surgery-related pain. However, it is increasingly being mixed with heroin and other drugs to produce a cheaper and more lethal product.
Senate bill 300 designates Xylazine as a controlled substance due to recent instances of this veterinary drug being used to lace heroin. Drug dealers use this dangerous drug to “enhance” their products. However, the heroin-Xylazine combination is so potent that it can take multiple doses of naloxone to revive an overdose victim, and in many cases, the emergency medication may not be effective at all.
Senate bill 816 designates Alpha-PVP, also known as “Flakka” or “Gravel” as a controlled substance. Similar to bath salts and methamphetamine, use of this designer drug has been known to cause violent behavior, with side effects including nausea, vomiting, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, suicidal thoughts, seizures, chest pains, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Senate bill 3518 classifies synthetic marijuana like K2, Spike 99, Spice, Yucatan Fire, Genie, Zohai and many others, as Schedule I controlled substances. These legal herb-like products are laced with a synthetic cannabinoid to produce a high similar to existing controlled substances, but with more dangerous side effects, including hallucinations, vomiting, agitation, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and other adverse conditions. This bill will impose criminal sanctions on synthetic pot and it a felony to sell such products to a minor or on school grounds.
Senate bill 2722 bans the analog substances of scheduled controlled substances. Expanding the state’s ability to ban analog substances would give state drug and law enforcement agencies another tool to combat the quickly moving world of designer drugs that simply “tweak” an existing scheduled substance in order to avoid criminal prohibitions.
Senate bill 658 adds a new synthetic opiate, U-47700 and commonly referred to as "Pink" to the schedule I opiate list. This inexpensive drug has spread in popularity across the United States and is reportedly eight times more powerful than heroin.
Senate bill 2639 is an extension of the landmark I-STOP legislation and requires hospital and emergency room physicians to notify a patient's prescriber when a patient is being treated for a controlled substance overdose.
Senate bill 2248 helps facilitate the exchange of health care information with hospitals, office-based surgery practices, and health care providers who accept walk-in patients not regularly seen by the provider. Under this legislation, practitioners would utilize and maintain an electronic health records system that connects to the local regional health information organization. This system would help in the prevention of drug abuse by giving these clinics and urgent care centers the ability to see patient records and whether there is a history of drug use or prescriptions.