Later this week, thousands of New Jerseyans will fan out across the Garden State to raise awareness about the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.

According to Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day on Friday will give thousands of volunteers the chance to spread the important message of prevention.

“The way they’re doing this is they’re leaving messages in their community on door hangers, and they’re also leaving messages in medical offices about the CDC guidelines for safe prescribing,” he said.

“It really is an opportunity to educate both the public at large and our medical partners about how important it is for them to become aware of the links between prescription drugs and heroin abuse.”

He said another aspect of Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is to “look at ways to help prevent families from becoming involved in a devastating epidemic.”

Even with all of the recent focus on opioid abuse, Valente said the problem still remains at epidemic levels.

“It’s still the No. 1 public health issue that both our state and country are facing,” he said.

He noted 75 percent of heroin addicts “started with a prescription pill.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who use prescription painkillers are 40 times more likely to use heroin than people who don’t take these types of painkillers.

“We need to continually remind people how important it is for them to become aware of this and to look at alternatives to opioids,” said Valente.

He noted more than 33,000 people in the U.S. died of opioid overdoses in 2015, and the number of such deaths quadrupled from 1999 to 2015.

Valente said the Knock Out Abuse volunteers will include college and high school students, parents and anti-drug community coalitions.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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