Already among the highest in the state, overdose deaths from heroin and prescription drugs in Ocean County, N.J. more than doubled in 2013. And, although we’ve only marked off 16 days of 2014, there have already been three fatal overdoses.
“It is a suburban epidemic facing us throughout New Jersey,” said Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “A lot of suburban counties are affected at dangerous levels.”
Ocean County is comprised of a string of beach towns, connected by a boardwalk, and perhaps best known today for the long-running reality series “The Jersey Shore.”
In 2012, 53 people died of heroin and prescription drug overdoses in this New Jersey county, which gave it the state title for highest number of heroin-related emergency room visits – putting Ocean County ahead of more urban counties, such as Hudson and Essex that are more heavily populated.
Put it this way, Ocean County has less than 7% of New Jersey’s population yet, in 2011 it led the state with 11% of all hospital admissions and again in 2012 with 11.4%.
In 2013, Ocean County’s overdose death toll peaked at 112, with the majority of which being heroin-related – roughly 10% of a state total of 1,188 overdose deaths. And now, three more in the few short days of this New Year. The local police department has issued a warning about a possibly tainted brand of heroin being sold under the name “Bud Light.”
The Link Between Prescription Drugs and Heroin
As with opiate and heroin epidemics in other states across the country, the uptick in heroin use can be directly correlated with the outrageous over-prescribing of narcotic painkillers. Kids have easy access to these powerful and dangerous medications – these drugs are just an arm’s reach away in their parents’ medicine cabinets.
“Prescription drugs are a gateway drug to heroin,” said Valente.
Prosecutors for Ocean County have begun resorting to outside-the-box measures by distributing warning cards to funeral homes in order to educate families on the importance of responsibly disposing of unused prescription medications, especially narcotic opiates meds, which may be left behind by their recently deceased family members.
“It is our hope that these unused medications will be disposed of at the designated drop-off points so that they do not get into the hands of those who would use or sell them illegally,” say prosecuters.
Heroin: A Nationwide Epidemic
Heroin and Ohio
Ohio State Attorney General, Mike DeWine said in his State of the State address that his office gathered by his office “suggests 11 people die in Ohio every week from a heroin overdose.”
He goes on to say that this astonishing new trend is a “heroin epidemic” that has affected every community in Ohio.
The past month alone revealed a 107% increase in heroin deaths in over half of Ohio’s counties.
Heroin and Vermont
Federal statistics reveal that Vermont is now ranked among the top 10 states for the abuse of painkillers and heroin, not including marijuana, for people aged 18 to 25 years old. According to the Vermont Health Department, the number of overdose deaths due to heroin almost doubled, increasing from nine to 17 last year.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin abuse or other drug abuse problem or drug addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.