A former high school football player, a mother from Oakland and two best friends are all on the list of dead. Seven of them were under 30. Four of them were women. And almost all of them died in their Bergen County Homes.
This year, has been one hell of a hit in the state of New Jersey. So far this year, heroin has claimed the lives of at least 13 Bergen County residents, which is a rate of more than one per week. If this continues on, by the end of the year the deaths would vastly outdo the county’s 27 fatal overdoses last year.
The death toll of course has county officials highly alarmed. Officials fear that opiate addiction is growing even more entrenched within the state of New Jersey.
In 2012, New Jersey saw roughly 800 opiate related drug deaths. Half of those involved heroin, the same heroin that has made a “killer comeback.” Many people know that this is due to the lessening availability of prescription narcotics.
State officials have called it an epidemic. And it is. It knows no bounds and crosses racial, geographic, and socioeconomic lines. But despite the heightened awareness to the issue in Trenton, and vigorous law enforcement efforts in hard hit counties, there remains a total sense of helplessness. Like you just can’t win.
Last week, a state task force on heroin and opiate addiction released an 88 page report calling for update drug education programs in schools, improvements to the oversight of painkiller prescriptions and expanded long term treatment options.
So what about the overdoses and deaths?
An overdose victim that is found in time can be revived with Naloxone, a drug that typically is administered into the veins or up the nose. What this drug does, is it halts the effects of heroin. Police departments and emergency responders across the county have reported regular near-fatal overdoses-addicts saved by medical intervention sometimes multiple times in a single week.
In one of the Bergen County cases, a victim was revived with Naloxone one day and then overdosed and died the next day. All over the state, heroin laced with fentanyl has been blamed for multiple deaths in recent months. Only one of the 2014 Bergen deaths has been linked to fentanyl laced heroin officials said.
If deaths continue at this pace, Bergen County could soon rival Ocean, Camden and Monmouth, the three counties last year that had the most overdose deaths.
The surge in addiction has also brought a surge of crime with it. There has been an increase in burglaries and shoplifting.
And young people seem to be the one’s most affected. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has been sending dogs into schools to search for drugs. The county;s narcotics squad had 183 arrests in 2012, in 2013 they had 294. In 2012, authorities confiscated 6,901 doses of heroin in the county. Last year that number more than doubled to 16,518.
In both Bergen and Ocean counties, prosecutors have sought stiff charges against people who provide drugs that result in the user’s death. But the arrests officials known, are having little to no effect on the many already ensnared by the net that is heroin addiction. And the 13 deaths so far are proof.