There is no doubt about it: the United States is in the midst of a heroin crisis, and New Jersey is no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half a million Americans died of a drug overdose between 2000 and 2014, and over sixty percent of those overdoses involved opiates, such as heroin (CDC.) In 2015, The Washington Post reported that for the first time in history, more people died of a heroin overdose than from gun violence. Heroin has become an urgent public health concern. So, what are we doing to combat it?
The Heroin Crisis Nationwide and in New Jersey
Nationally, heroin has become a problem. The CDC reports that:
- Between 2002 and 2013, the rates of first-time heroin use, regular heroin use, and heroin addiction all increased every year among people ages 18-25
- Deaths caused by heroin tripled between 2010 and 2015
- 91 Americans die every day from opioid use (including heroin as well as prescription opiates)
Heroin and other opiates have devastated communities all over the country, from the small towns in the Midwest to bustling cities in the Northeast. New Jersey has not been spared the effects of the heroin crisis in our nation. In fact, statistics show that our state has been hit especially hard by the epidemic:
- According to an article in NJ.com, more than 6,000 people in New Jersey have died of a heroin overdose since 2004
- The New Jersey Medical Examiner’s office reported a 21 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in 2015, with 1,587 deaths that year
- In 2015, heroin-related deaths were the highest in New Jersey’s history since records have been kept (NJ.com)
- The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office reports that there has been a 214% increase in deaths caused by heroin and morphine since 2010.
The heroin crisis has not gone unnoticed. It’s taken the lives of family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. In fact, New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, has been personally affected, having lost a friend to an opiate overdose (NBC News.) In response to the crisis, Governor Christie has called for action by the state and the federal government.
Combating the Heroin Crisis in New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie has claimed that handling the heroin crisis during his term as New Jersey’s governor is one of his top priorities. Christie signed legislation to make naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, available without a prescription, and changed his mind about Good Samaritan legislation. After first vetoing a bill that would allow people to call 911 for an overdose victim and be safe from arrest, Christie reconsidered and passed the measure (NBC News.) Most recently, the governor was selected to lead a federal commission tasked with investigating the opiate and heroin crisis and coming up with new solutions to address it.
What About the Community?
Measures that allow people to access anti-overdose drugs or that help encourage people to report overdoses, go a long way toward addressing the heroin crisis because they can help reduce the number of fatal overdoses. However, truly dealing with the heroin crisis means coming up with long-term, lasting solutions for repairing the community and helping individuals access treatment for their addiction.
The Discovery Institute is working on promoting community involvement, education, awareness, and prevention of heroin and opiate use through sponsoring events like town halls. Most recently, Discovery sponsored a town hall at Monmouth University, which was geared toward addressing the heroin crisis in New Jersey. The event featured Discovery’s executive director along with members of the recovery community, family members of addicted individuals, law enforcement, first responders, and educators. The event featured information about:
- Narcan and overdose prevention
- Treatment and 24/7 crisis hotlines
- Safe drug disposal programs run by the Drug Enforcement Administration
- Recognizing addiction in a loved one and what to do to address it
Ultimately, the most effective solution to the heroin crisis is professional treatment for addicted individuals. At the Discovery Institute, we provide comprehensive treatment, from detox to aftercare, in order to help people recover from addiction. Our programs include family, individual, and group counseling as well as dual diagnosis care for patients who need it. We work with clients to make sure treatment is affordable without insurance, and for those with insurance, the cost is often covered fully, because we believe that every individual has the right to access quality addiction treatment. If you need help, call us today at 888-616-7177.