Teens and drugs: NJ ranks among highest in fatal overdoses
A new report provides some disturbing statistics about New Jersey teens and fatal drug overdoses.
The Trust for America's Health lists New Jersey as a disturbing sixth-highest in the nation when it comes to fatal youth drug overdoses. The report, called "Reducing Teen Substance Misuse: What Really works," indicates that overdose rates the Garden State were highest among young males.
Researchers who compiled the report averaged drug overdoses in people ages 12 to 25 in every state for the years 2011 to 2013. The report also showed that over the past 10 years, drug overdose rates increased substantially in more than 35 states. In addition, the rates more than quadrupled in five states and was the leading cause of injury deaths in 2013.
Dan Meara of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-New Jersey says one way to stem the tide in the state involved more and better anti-drug education in schools.
"Certainly, earlier is key," Meara said. "When you talk about the need for education, there is absolutely that, both for our youth, but for our parents and for our physicians as well. I think physicians do not get the level and amount of education they need on the harms of prescribing, and they need to make their patients aware of prescription opiates, such as oxycodone, vicodin and so forth."
Meara also says that while Naloxon - or Narcan - has been touted for it's benefits when it comes to reviving heroin overdose victims, we need better follow-up treatment for those victims, "not turning them back out so that they can harm themselves." He said that once a person survives an overdose, he or she may be more willing to begin a treatment program, so getting them help immediately following the incident is key.
He says that what we don't want to do is revive somebody, and then release them without proper follow-up treatment because Narcan, in addition to stabilizing the person, also puts them into withdrawal. According to Meara, addicts who have been revived with Narcan are going to have a very strong compulsion to seek out drugs, shortly after having been revived.
"For people who have no experience with addiction, that is remarkable to them, to see somebody who is on the verge of death, and they are revived, and then they turn back and they are seeking what nearly killed them," he said. "That is what addiction does to a person. In those cases where we revived people, let's get them referred to treatment, because we had the person right there, you know, we know that they have been through this, and in all likelihood have an addiction to an opiate, which they are not likely to be overcome on their own."
Meara said some counties, such as Camden, are referring people to treatment after they're given Narcan. They're first taken to detox so they can begin to get free of that physical need that their body has for the opiate, and then continue with a rehab program.
"Now that we have brought them out of the shadows, let's shine a light on solving their problem on a permanent basis," Meara said.
And on the early education battle against drugs, Ocean County, which is struggling with a severe heroin addiction crisis, is trying out programs in high schools designed to raise awareness at an early age. One Ocean County program, called Drug Code, is separated into three parts, and deals with alcohol, marijuana and prescription abuse.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.