FARMINGDALE — As New Jersey’s opioid epidemic continues to plague the state, it is more important than ever to reach student-athletes and educate them about the dangers of prescription opioids.

According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, more than 3,000 people in New Jersey died of a drug overdose in 2021, a majority of which involved some form of opioid.

To help educate kids, PDFNJ and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey have teamed up with the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to bring their “Knock Out Opioid Abuse” initiative to student-athletes at Howell High School.

The event, which will be held Wed. Nov. 16 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Howell High, 405 Squankum-Yellowbrook Road, Farmingdale, is the sixth in a series of 10 events to be held at high schools across the state until the end of the 2022-23 academic year.

Who better knows student-athletes and the struggles they face than professional athletes themselves?

That’s why former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas will be the headliner speaker at the Howell High School event.

Lucas starred at Rutgers University in the 1990s before enjoying an eight-year career in the NFL, playing for the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins.

But football took a toll on Lucas, who sustained several injuries and underwent more than a dozen surgeries during and after his playing career ended.

Lucas became dependent on prescription opioids, at times taking more than 1,400 pills a month!

He has been very open about his addiction and recovery, so much so, that he has been helping others who have struggled with addiction. His goal is to prevent young athletes from going down the same dark path as he did, to addiction.

Students have an elevated risk of opioid use as sports injuries send more than 2.6 million children to emergency rooms every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mission of these conversations is to educate student-athletes on the risks of prescription opioids, as well as the importance of taking care of themselves both physically and mentally.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at

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