Before they were shooting heroin, they most likely were popping pills.

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A new national campaign is being rolled out Thursday to heighten awareness about the danger of opiate-based drug prescriptions, which officials say evolved into heroin abuse for young people.

New Jersey is one of the states hardest hit by the heroin-addiction epidemic.

About 1,300 New Jersey families lost someone to opiate abuse in 2014. The heroin death rate in New Jersey is 13.2 per 100,000 residents, which is more than three times the national average.

"There is no question that we are getting hit very hard, and we need to do everything possible to be able to reverse those trends and try everything that we can to educate individuals that are facing this dilemma," said Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

The campaign, "You Decide Before they Prescribe," targets parents.

Valente says the awareness campaign gives parents an opportunity to understand that they have a role in determining whether or not certain prescription drugs should be prescribed to their children.

"We think that it is important that both doctors and parents look at alternatives to opiate-based drugs when prescribing for young people," he said.

Valente says far too often, when the prescription runs out, some kids turn to heroin because it is cheaper and accessible.

"We know that parents have a role. We know that the medical community has a role."

He says doctors should be required to have conversations with parents of children prior to prescribing, because we think that this is a great way for parents to become informed and make informed decisions. This campaign also encourages parents to ask questions to doctors.

The campaign  will include a billboard at Time Square.

 

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5