Despite ongoing efforts to educate New Jersey parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, a new study finds many moms and dads remain completely in the dark.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey report finds only 60 percent of New Jersey parents with children between the ages of 12 and 15 understand that opiods are a synthetic version of heroin.

Partnership Executive Director Angelo Valente said this means “40 percent of parents of middle school children did not know there was a link between prescription drugs and heroin abuse. That is 4 out of every 10 parents that are walking into an emergency room, a dentist’s office or a doctor’s office who are not informed.”

Valente says if a teen gets addicted to prescription pain medication, there’s a significant risk they will begin using heroin before long, because it’s much cheaper and more readily available.

He stressed opiate pain relievers are still prescribed way too much.

“Research shows with a wisdom tooth extraction the United States is the only country in the world that prescribes opiates for that procedure,” he said. “In most cases wisdom teeth are removed from young people so we know that’s a targeted audience that we really have to be concerned about.”

He noted “providing an ibuprofen for example, and potentially with a Tylenol, not only does it provide the same type of relief, but also it’s more effective, because the ibuprofen has an anti-inflammatory part of the medication which is necessary for those types of procedures.”

Valente said overall New Jersey has been very forward thinking in developing innovative legislative packages and initiatives to combat opiate abuse but we can do better.

“In particular, there is a bill in the Assembly which would require a doctor to have a conversation with a parent of a patient under the age of 18 prior to prescribing an opiate,” he said. “What this would do is give the parents information about the opiate, and also the doctor would provide alternatives that are available, non-addictive alternatives. That’s the kind of education, both from a medical perspective as well as a parent, that we think could be a game changer in helping to reverse the trends.”

<strong><span style="font-size: x-large;">Other key findings</span></strong>

Seven in ten parents know that heroin is now less expensive to obtain than prescription drugs.

Just 27 believe that illegal prescription drugs are getting harder to obtain.

Eight in ten parents say the anti-drug ads encouraged them to talk to their children about using drugs or alcohol.

Almost six in ten say the ads made them more aware of the risks of using drugs and alcohol.

Parents continue to feel most knowledgeable about marijuana, with seven in ten saying they know “a lot.”

Parents knowledge of heroin has increased significantly over the past two years, from 39 percent to 49 percent. Knowledge of prescription drug abuse (63 percent, up from 58 percent), OxyContin (50 percent, up from 46 percent) and meth abuse has increased somewhat.

Two-thirds of parents think a major reason kids use drugs is to look cool). Six in ten believe it is to help them feel better about themselves.

A majority also cite the pressure and stress of school as a major reason (54 percent) and a majority of parents also feel kids are using drugs to help them deal with problems at home.

GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications was commissioned by The Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey to conduct the study. A telephone survey among a sample of 500 parents with children ages 12-15 in New Jersey was done this past February.

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