NJ overdose deaths expected to hit mark not seen since 2017
Through Oct. 31 of this year, the Garden State counted 2,422 drug-related overdose deaths, at a pace of 242 per month, according to data from the New Jersey State Police.
This is expected to be the first year since 2017 that New Jersey sees fewer than 2,900 people lose their lives to a drug overdose.
According to figures shared on Thursday by the NJSP Office of Drug Monitoring & Analysis, New Jersey is on pace to record a sizeable drop in the number overdose deaths compared to 2021.
Adding to the pace through October, according to Capt. Jason Piotrowski, November's count was below New Jersey's monthly average; December should be "a little bit of a better month" as well.
"We'll be down about 8-8.5% (year over year). We wish it was more, but certainly there's a bit of good news," Piotrowski said.
Last year's fatality count was 3,124. It was 3,050 in 2020.
NJ overdose county and demographic trends
Through October of this year, most New Jersey counties have recorded a significant decrease in overdose deaths, according to State Police data. Hunterdon County's drug-related death count went from 27 to 14; Union County's went from 132 to 92. Declines greater than 20% were also recorded in Ocean, Cape May, Hudson, Middlesex, Morris and Sussex counties.
Compared to the first 10 months of 2021, the overdose count is slightly higher in Cumberland County this year. Atlantic, Camden, Gloucester and Warren counties also recorded spikes.
While presenting the overdose data during a webinar presented by The Parternship for a Drug-Free New Jersey, Piotrowski said more resources should be diverted toward addressing racial disparities.
Black/African American individuals make up about 12% of New Jersey's population, but accounted for 28% of New Jersey's drug-related deaths in the first nine months of 2022. The share of Black deaths has been on the rise over recent years; it was as low as 13% in 2015.
"The Black population is disproportionately affected by this currently," Piotrowski said.
At the same time, white individuals went from accounting for 76% of New Jersey's overdose deaths in 2015, to representing 52% of New Jersey's count in 2022.
Since 2015, older individuals have been steadily making up more of New Jersey's overdose tally.
The 55 and older demographic represented nearly a third of New Jersey's overdose deaths in 2022 through September, compared to 20% in 2018 and 16% in 2015.