Yesterday, the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use Amongst New Jersey's Youth and Young Adults held the first in a series of public meetings.

Panel chairman, Frank Greenagel said, "We are here today not just because the statistics are staggering, but because our State's children are dying more often than anyone would care to admit. Heroin and other opiate use have reached epidemic proportions."

The latest statistics reveals the number of Jerseyans 25-years-old and younger who sought help for prescription painkiller abuse has increased 79% in the past two years. Those seeking help to kick a heroin habit has jumped 44% over the last four years. Greenagel points out that many Garden State residents get help in other states so they are not included in New Jersey's statistics which means the scary numbers actually underestimate the epidemic. The numbers show that no area of the state is immune to problem.

Ryan D. is now 21-years-old. Next month he will be three years sober, but it wasn't too long ago when his prescription painkiller addiction led him to try and kill himself twice.

He explains, "When you're addicted, in the middle of the act of addiction you don't value your own life. My life meant nothing to me. I didn't care if I lived or died….I saw no harm in taking my own life because my life was worth nothing to me……When you can't conceive of valuing your own life it's very hard to understand how a family could love you. I put my parents through hell."

Meg DuPont-Parisi and Kass Foster told the task force moving stories about the deaths of their sons as a result of drug addiction. They both remember their sons as bright, well-liked and well-educated and pointed out that this is ironclad proof that drug addiction can happen in any family.

Rayn D. now lives at Rutgers Recovery House. He credits long-term treatment programs for saving his life. He recommends that the state invest more in this area. Other suggestions include a toll-free tip-line and a relapse hotline.

Former Governor Jim McGreevey is a member of the task force.

He says, "We don't give children car keys, but tragically we give them opiate prescriptions."