Heroin overdoses surge according to CDC and Rx abuse to blame

Dear Editor:
Heroin overdoses are on the rise across the country, and New Jersey is not immune.
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin use has increased across the US among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.
The report found that the strongest risk factor for heroin use is prescription opioid abuse and that the greatest increases in heroin abuse have occurred in groups with historically lower rates of heroin use, including women, people with private insurance and higher incomes. According to the CDC, opioid pain relievers that are abused were most often obtained via prescription from physicians.
In New Jersey, the CDC reports that 62 prescriptions for prescription pain killers were written per 100 residents in 2014, which equates to approximately 5.4 million prescriptions. These findings underscore the need for patients to be notified by their physician of the potential for dependency on these opioid based drugs.
Senate Bill 2366, one of the measures in the 21 bill package introduced by Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale to tackle the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that is occurring across the state, requires practitioners to have a conversation with their patient about the risks of developing a physical or psychological dependence before prescribing. The measure passed the Senate in December 2014 with a vote of 36-1 and is now waiting to be introduced in the Assembly. Based on last year’s numbers, over 2.75 million prescriptions for highly addictive opioids were potentially prescribed in our state—to our children, friends, and family members, without the benefit of any information of their addictive qualities or their link to heroin abuse rates.
The Partnership for A Drug-Free New Jersey has focused on educating parents, physicians, and community leaders about the dangers of prescription pain medicine and the link between prescribed opiates and heroin abuse rates. Education is the key factor in preventing the abuse of opiates.

Elaine Pozycki
Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ)

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