Opioid addiction is going to be one of the highlights of the 2010’s years from now. We’ll remember the headlines, the panic, the coverage and unfortunately for some, those lost to the drug. However, it has been highly effective at masking a much larger story affecting New Jersey and most of the country; drug addiction, overdose and crime is on the rise for all drugs, including alcohol, meth and cocaine in addition to a steep rise in prescription drug abuse.
Jim Hall, a senior epidemiologist, gave a sobering presentation at Perona Farms recently covering patterns of addiction, overdose and general use from 1880 to 2018 within the state. Hall pointed out a few alarming trends that painted a rather depressing picture of drug use trends that appear to be on the rise today. For instance, since 1995, Ritalin and Adderall use quintupled, which are a drug typically prescribed for behavioral therapy and has a close relationship to the illegal drug meth, with a majority of the use coming from high school and college students, setting them up for addiction that has a high potential of leading to full blown meth addiction.
Hall’s presentation, which included 120 slides full of numbers, maps and statistics, also pointed out that nationwide, meth deaths between 1999 and 2012 were fewer than 2500 total. In 2017 alone, there were 10,721 cases, a ridiculously large spike. New Jersey’s numbers reflected similar changes in use. Hall pointed out that meth today versus then is much more potent and dangerous which contributes to the level of overdoses that have been seen in recent years, but doesn’t believe that this alone is the sole reason for the increase; people are using meth in higher numbers, too.
Other speakers at the event included Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch, who provided county specific statistics, which also painted a rather bleak picture, Dr. Michael Ganon who spoke about the advances of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for alcohol and opioid addictions, Dr. Lina Shihabuddin who shared information about the role of alcohol, benzodiazepines and amphetamines in Hall’s numbers, Timothy McMahon, a special agent with the DEA in New Jersey, who discussed the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit prescription drugs along with another 18 exhibitors. One thing was certain; addictive substances on the whole are increasing in usage.
Becky Carlson, executive director of the Center for Prevention and Counseling which held the symposium called “Connecting the Continuum: Emerging Drug Trends, Substance Use Disorders and Advances in Recovery”, along with Tina Aue, director of prevention services at the Center, hold the event twice a year in order to provide tools and resources for various addiction treatment NJ services to network and pool resources in order to stay on top of drug trends and promote sober living in New Jersey.
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