I know Heroin is Bad But is it Really In My town?
We are the New Jersey Family and Addiction Institute in Florham Park work with a lot of clients from surrounding towns struggling with addiction. Our clients come from Madison, Chatham, Mendham, Morristown, Short Hills, Summit, East Hanover, and other surrounding towns.
In addition to our individual therapy work we speak quite frequently at events in different towns focused on raising awareness of alcoholism, drug addiction, and video game addiction. One of the most common questions we face from the audience is generally some form of “Is this really happening in our town?” Intellectually people know that the opioid epidemic is raging but if they don’t see the effects of this first hand (or know someone who has been affected by it) then they aren’t sure it is happening in their town.
I grew up in Florham Park which is located in Morris County where I went to Holy Family School from 1st to 8th grade and then went to Hanover Park High School in East Hanover. Many of my friends lived in surrounding towns.
At the time I knew people were using prescription painkillers inappropriately but did not think it was a big issue. Eventually I went on to college where I was focused on my academics. Towards the end of college during the time that I was already transitioning into graduate school I started to notice that those kids who had been using the painkillers weren’t making those same transitions as me. Some of them were pretty much were they were 4-5 years earlier. At the time I felt bad for them and just figured they were outliers and not representative of the towns I knew so well.
On my road to becoming a therapist I decided to focus on addiction. In graduate school I was in a highly specialized and intensive program for substance abuse counselors. While in this program I decided to start doing research on the rates of substance abuse in various counties in New Jersey.
What the Research Shows
During the course of my research I realized that those kids who I knew who were using opioids weren’t outliers. It turns out I didn’t know my towns as well as I thought I did.
|Suspected Overdose Deaths||46||51||44||71||N/A|
|Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed||253,278||255,018||267,462||243,692||231,540|
While we do not have the numbers for 2017 or 2018 my guess is that the number of overdose deaths most likely increased based on the trend from 2015 to 2016. When we look at the number of Naloxone Administrations (a drug that is administered to reverse the effects of overdoses) we see that the number of times it was administered grew roughly 400% from 2015 to 2017.
Clearly more people were overdosing. Luckily medical personnel, police, firefighters, and parents are receiving training to administer the Naloxone thus saving lives.
The from Morris County is not unique. Almost every county in New Jersey is seeing increases in overdose deaths. This is evident in the chart below.
What do I do if I or a Loved One is Using Opioids?
The data above clearly illustrates that opioids can be very deadly. If you or a loved one are abusing opioids please do not wait to reach out for help. Read the other material on this blog and seek professional help.