The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that the rate of heroin overdose deaths has nearly tripled since 2010.
“Heroin use is increasing rapidly across all demographic groups,” said Thomas Friedan, the director of the CDC. “In just a decade, the landscape changed … Around one in 50 (heroin-users) may die each year from their addiction.”
It was a stark statement directly addressing the startling rise in heroin use across the country in recent years.
As dire is the situation nationwide, the epidemic is much worse in New Jersey.
An analysis by NJ Advance Media shows that the heroin overdose death rate in New Jersey is more than triple the rate released by the CDC on 7/6/16 and now eclipses homicide, suicide, car accidents and AIDS as a cause of death in the state.
In Camden and Atlantic counties, heroin kills more people annually than the flu and pneumonia combined, state Department of Health data show.
Heroin is pouring into New Jersey via Port Elizabeth and Port Newark.
It’s often the first port-of-call for the drug, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said heroin in the state is purer than it’s ever been. Bags are increasingly being laced with other substances, like powerful fentanyl, which itself was related to 143 deaths in the state last year – adding another twist to an already intractable problem for law enforcement officials.
During a briefing, the CDC said one of the most glaring revelations of their study was how heroin usage was growing across the country. Women, white people, adults aged 18 to 25 and people in higher income brackets – historically at low risk for heroin usage – have all been part of the dramatic spikes in abuse of heroin and prescription opioids in recent years.
Democratic Senator Joseph Vitale of Woodbridge Township, NJ introduced 21 bills to bolster substance abuse education, treatment and prevention in New Jersey. Most of which were passed into law or sit at Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
Christie has made it a priority of his administration, announcing in his state-of-the-state that a new treatment hotline would be launched (it did July 1) and millions of dollars would be pushed toward launching jail re-entry programs in five counties. The implementation of heroin reversal drug Naloxone among law enforcement in 2014 saved hundreds of lives across the state, providing a last line of defense against heroin and opioid abuse.
The CDC study also noted that users of prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to use heroin than others, a figure that merges commonly prescribed medication as a threshold for use of more threatening substances.
Such measures, like a voluntary prescription management program have sought to clamp down on overprescribing by doctors, the use of drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin remains pervasive in New Jersey and across the country.
While prescription drugs and heroin are chemical cousins, local enforcement officials said heroin only costs $4 to $6 dollars a bag on the street, while prescription drugs can run a user between five and six times that.
“The conflation between prescription drug use and heroin underscores the need, frankly, for an agonizing reappraisal of access to opiate painkillers,” said former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who now helps administer substance abuse treatment in the Hudson County jail.
Virtually every indicator, from drug arrests to overdoses to treatment figures, show that the heroin crisis has a firm grip on New Jersey. To McGreevey, word from the CDC that the nation is following in the state’s footsteps is no surprise.