Working to Stop the Heroin Epidemic in its Tracks
Despite all the warnings about the dangers of heroin addiction directed at New Jersey teens, people in their 20s and their parents, the problem continues to get worse, and an increasing number of young people are overdosing and dying.
In addition to drug education efforts in schools and numerous heroin awareness symposiums being held in different forums around the state, the New Jersey Legislature has crafted a series of bills designed to prevent opiate addiction.
According to Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, one measure would require a doctor to have a conversation with a patient or the parent of a patient about the potential risks and potential addictive qualities of some of the opiate-based drugs that are being prescribed.
"We think this is really a monumental step because it really gets to the heart of where we believe we're going to be able to address this issue, and that's education," Valente said.
Steve Liga, executive director of the Middlesex County Chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, agreed.
"We've had a number of patients who say if only I'd have known that this was something that could happen to me I wouldn't have done it or I wouldn't have let my child go on this medication if I knew it was a problem," Lida said.
He said it's important that the education being providing is accurate, but it must include real facts, so everyone can make informed decisions.
Liga was quick to add treatment is the second part of the equation.
"Some people will make poor decisions and they will become addicted," he said. "Narcan steps in and says okay if you get to the brink of death we can save you, but we're missing that next piece that says we've saved you, now we can get you help."
Valente agreed that timely treatment is vital.
"If a child is experimenting with drugs," he said, parents must be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with that drug use in order to get early intervention, to be able to get help.
He stressed drug addiction is a disease.
"If a parent finds a child is under the influence or has an addiction issue they should definitely get medical and professional help," Valente said.