Drug overdose deaths across New Jersey surpassed 3,000 within a year for the first time, based on preliminary 2018 data.

The state Attorney General’s Office division NJ CARES has released figures showing 3,163 lives were lost in drug-related overdoses for the year. That’s roughly a 15 percent increase over 2,750 recorded deaths in 2017.

In a statement to NJ 101.5, NJ CARES Director Sharon M. Joyce said, "The opioid epidemic continues to claim the lives of too many New Jersey residents, with the total number of suspected overdose deaths in 2018 surpassing 2017’s number. We are making progress, however, and in 2018, we estimate that the number of opioid prescriptions issued in New Jersey dropped by more than 10 percent. NJ CARES is monitoring the statewide and county-level data to identify policy interventions that will help us further combat the opioid crisis in New Jersey."

Joyce continued, "We also know that Fentanyl and its analogs are driving the number of fatal overdoses, and we will use all available legal tools to address the threat they pose. The New Jersey State Police and law enforcement at all levels will continue to pursue vigorous enforcement and prosecutors will seek significant prison sentences for those dealing in these lethal substances.

Other figures of note from the 2018 preliminary data:

  • 14 out of NJ's 21 counties reported more than 100 drug overdose deaths in 2018. That's up from 13 counties with more than 100 drug overdose deaths in 2017.
  • Camden and Essex Counties each reported more than 300 fatal overdoses in both years, the highest in New Jersey.
  • The highest year-to-year spike in raw numbers was 72 more fatal overdoses in Passaic County, which saw 206 drug overdose deaths in 2018, compared to 134 in 2017. Monmouth County saw 52 more (223 drug overdose deaths in 2018, compared to 171 in 2017) and Atlantic County saw 49 more (217 drug overdose deaths in 2018, compared to 168 in 2017).
  • Six counties did see decreases in reported fatal drug overdoses in 2018 over 2017. Middlesex County saw the largest decrease, 211 overdose deaths in 2018, 24 less than 2017.
  • 2016 was the first time NJ drug overdose deaths surpassed the 2,000 mark within a year at 2,221. In that year, eight counties saw more than 100 fatal overdoses.


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