For decades, the United States has been facing a crisis concerning opioids, which stems from prescription misuse to illegal opioids taking control of people’s lives and causing an epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is rapidly coming out with new data each year and ways to combat this national crisis. Take a look at how the opioid problem has impacted New Jersey and measures that are being taken to help those who have been hurt by it.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include legal pain relievers by prescription such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Codeine, and illegal drugs such as heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Opioids are often prescribed by doctors to help with pain and can be helpful if used correctly. Misusing opioids can lead to dependence and addiction.

How the Opioid Epidemic Started

Before opioids were known to be highly addictive in the late ‘90s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the healthcare community that these drugs were not addictive. As a result, providers began prescribing them more commonly, leading to numerous cases where the drugs were misused, and the patients often became addicted. This has continued into the present day, with thousands dead and even more struggling with opioid addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdose in 2017. 

What the Numbers Say

Because the opioid epidemic is ever-evolving and more individuals are struggling daily, new data comes out yearly to inform the public of the dangers of opioid misuse. Knowing the statistics can help the general public understand just how dangerous opioids can be if not used properly and deter individuals from misusing them. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has published the following statistics for New Jersey:

  • In 2018, 2,583 overdose deaths in New Jersey involved opioids.
  • That same year, 38.9 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 persons.

NJ CARES, an initiative put forth by the Department of Law and Public Safety for the state of New Jersey, has a real-time dashboard showing the most recent data related to the opioid epidemic. From January 1 to November 30, 2020, the following has been stated:

  • 2,791 opioid-related overdose deaths
  • 13,501 Nalozone administrations
  • 3,026,599 opioid prescriptions written

The CDC has posted the following national statistics:

  • From 2017 to 2018, overdose death rates decreased by 4%
  • In 2018, the overdose deaths were still four times higher than in 1999
  • Of the 67,367 deaths in 2018, nearly 70% involved opioids
  • Between 2017-2018:
    • Opioid-involved deaths decreased by 2%
    • Prescription opioid-involved deaths decreased by 13.5%
    • Synthetic opioid-involved- deaths increased by 10%
    • Heroin-involved death rates decreased by 4%

Measures Taken to Combat the Epidemic

Although recent numbers show a decrease in death rates, the opioid epidemic remains a national crisis. With so many lives at stake, the CDC and the New Jersey government have taken swift actions each year to combat the ongoing epidemic on a state and national level. 

NJ Initiatives

The Attorney General launched a new office in 2018 to help combat the opioid crisis in New Jersey known as the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES). 

NJ CARES is overseeing the opioid crisis by:

  • Suing opioid manufacturers who misled the public about the dangers of opioids
  • Bringing criminal charges against the most dangerous opioid traffickers
  • Revoking and suspending professional licenses from indiscriminate prescribers
  • Diverting individuals struggling with addiction to treatment
  • Connecting individuals in need of treatment and recovery services
  • Improving methods for tracking and reporting opioid prescriptions
  • Building an online dashboard to better target law enforcement resources
  • Publishing data online to educate the public about the scope of the crisis
  • Engaging with communities across New Jersey
  • Promoting safe prescription drug disposal

CDC Initiatives

There is currently a three-year cooperative agreement known as Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) that began in 2019 to help fund various health departments in 47 states, Washington DC, two territories, and 16 cities and counties. Through this agreement, surveillance and prevention efforts improve data accuracy, enhance care, improve prescription drug monitoring programs, partner with public safety, and more. Specifically, the CDC is focusing on:

  1. Trend monitoring to better understand and respond to the epidemic.
  2. Advancing research through data collection and analysis on opioid-related overdoses to better identify who and where needs assistance and where to evaluate prevention efforts.
  3. Equipping states with resources, improving data collection, and supporting evidence-based strategies to build a state, local, and tribal capacity. (Through OD2A)
  4. Equipping providers, healthcare systems, and payers with data, tools, and guidance towards evidence-based decision making to improve opioid prescribing and patient safety.
  5. Partnering with public safety officials and community organizations.
  6. Increasing public awareness through education and encouragement to make safe choices concerning opioids.

Help for Those Struggling

If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid use disorder or addiction, do not hesitate to reach out for help before it is too late. Many believe that opiates are safe because doctors prescribe them, but this is not always the case. They are still highly addictive and cannot be underestimated in terms of their effects on your life. 

 

The opioid epidemic has been a ongoing crisis in the United States and New Jersey since the late 1990s. With millions suffering, it is vital to bring more awareness to this issue and educate the general public on opioid misuse and addiction. The statistics speak for themselves, showing numerous individuals dying every year from an opioid overdose. The Government of New Jersey and the CDC have taken specific measures to combat the crisis across multiple levels and angles to ensure citizens’ safety and health. For those struggling with opioid addiction, help is available and accessible. Facilities like the Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford in New Jersey have vast experience in treating opioid addictions, and they can help you too. Contact the facility today at (877) 557-5372 to learn more and start your journey to healing. Opioid addiction can be challenging to overcome, but with Pinelands, it is possible to heal naturally among the pines.