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With overdose fatals topping car crash deaths, NJ officials launch anti-abuse campaign

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

PUBLIC SAFETY: State authorities this morning launched an advertising and awareness campaign, “Addiction Does Not Discriminate,” and a new website with information on preventing abuse, recognizing when loved ones are at risk, and finding treatment.

The campaign will include “heavy outdoor advertising” across New Jersey during the summer, with a special emphasis on the Shore areas that have seen an increase in opiate addiction deaths.

The ads feature a composite face representing the fact that prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction transcend demographic groups. They also bear the message: “Your medicine cabinet could be a gateway to heroin,” and the web address: KnowAddiction.nj.gov .

The site offers resources about addiction and addiction-related issues — including how to help prevent family members, friends, students, patients, co-workers and others from experimenting with prescription drug abuse; how to identify the signs that an individual is at risk of addiction or is hiding a drug problem; and how to find and take advantage of addiction treatment.

Organizers also plan to distribute outreach materials to schools, community groups, and other venues.

The tagline “Your medicine cabinet could be the gateway to heroin” will alternate with other messages intended to reach various target audiences and make them aware of the important roles they play in fighting the crisis of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse.

Today’s announcement by Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA) represents the first step following recommendations of a task force report issued in March.

“We are fighting a well-documented epidemic in which the abuse of prescription painkillers traps young people in addiction and leads them to heroin,” GCADA Chairman Neil Van Ess said during a news conference at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, in Neptune.

“Our awareness campaign will help erase the stereotype of the heroin user as a back-alley denizen,” Van Ess said. “It will help parents and young people understand that addiction is a disease, and that it can affect any family and every community.”

The severity of the epidemic isn’t being overstated: Fatal drug overdoses now outnumber those from car crashes, which had always topped the list of accidental deaths in the U.S.

New Jersey last year reported 6,700 admissions to state-licensed or -certified substance abuse treatment programs due to prescription drug abuse, up nearly 300% from the previous decade.

More than 30% of those admitted for opiate treatment were 25 years old or younger.

“We are fighting the opiate abuse epidemic through strict criminal and regulatory enforcement involving our Opiates Task Force and the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, and through outreach in which we engage directly with the general public and the healthcare community,” state Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “This awareness campaign will encourage New Jerseyans to take responsibility for their role in prevention and treatment.”

The ad campaign is funded by the Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, Department of Human Services, and New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force.

The task force report, “Confronting New Jersey’s New Drug Problem: A Strategic Action Plan to Address a Burgeoning Heroin/Opiate Epidemic Among Adolescents and Young Adults,” can be found in its entirety at: gcada.nj.gov/policy/master/

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