Ocean County Heroin Deaths

Donna Weaver wrote an article for The Press of Atlantic City entitled “Ocean County surge in heroin deaths spurs action to prevent tragedies“. She noted that Ocean County, NJ is on track to double the number of drug-related deaths on record for 2012. Already this year there are 54 deaths on record (53 at the time of that article). In just one 8 day span during April, 9 people died of heroin overdoses in Ocean County.

I've been actively involved in some of the prevention and awareness efforts in Ocean and Monmouth counties. There are many rumors of “bad” heroin coming out of Philadelphia, being sold in Atlantic City area. There are stories of “good” and “bad” heroin, with some people wishing it were simply a problem of identifying the bad stuff from the good stuff. But this issue is much more complicated than that. All heroin is “bad stuff”. No matter who you are, your heroin dealer is not the most trustworthy source of safe, reliable medications.

The “heroin problem” in Ocean and Monmouth and other counties in New Jersey is part of a broader drug problem, involving prescription drugs prescribed by doctors. I added a comment to that article:

The surge in heroin-related deaths in Ocean County is not an isolated event. The rise in prescription drug misuse and the abuse in New Jersey over the past several years is now feeding into a heroin trade, as the prescription opiates and opioids (pain killers) become harder to obtain legally.

I’m a drug detox professional with Sunrise Detox in Morris County, and I collaborate with substance abuse treatment centers throughout New Jersey. I participate in the Ocean County Center for Prevention’s Prescription Drug Misuse working group (part of the DART Coalition). Sunrise Detox is opening a drug detox facility in Toms River later this year, to meet the growing demand for prescription drug, alcohol, and increasingly heroin addiction in Ocean and Monmouth counties.

Drug users, parents, loved ones, and community leaders need to recognize the strong connection between opioid prescription drugs (painkillers like oxycodone) and heroin. In many ways, heroin is a cheaper and more accessible form of the same drug, but heroin brings in additional risks associated with illicit manufacturing, irregular purity, and unknown dosing, all of which increasingly brings tragedy to NJ families who previously thought they were “only” dealing with a pill problem.

It is essential that we raise awareness of the signs of drug addiction epidemic in New Jersey, and help people get into treatment as early as possible. Currently medical intervention is restricted to those already too far along the addiction pathway. We need changes to the laws to enable medical assessments and early treatments for those showing signs of serious dependency, before they are tragically addicted to the most dangerous street drugs like heroin.

At Sunrise Detox we treat New Jersey residents who come to us with substance abuse issues that have gone out of control. Not all of the problems are recreational drug use. Many of them started as innocent prescription drug use. Pain killer use sometimes leads to mis-use and then abuse. The powerful prescription opioid medications are addicting, and act the same way in the body as heroin does, creating a cycle of addiction that is uncontrollable. For many, the only solution is to get medical assistance (medical drug detox) as soon as possible, and then the support and counseling needed to repair damaged lives, relationships, and expectations.

 

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