The Heroin Plague: NJ is Ground Zero

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the heroin plague New Jersey just can’t catch a break. The drastic increase in prescription painkiller consumption inevitably has led New Jersey straight into the hands of a heroin epidemic, a heroin epidemic so large that legislators are trying to figure out every which way possible to fix the inefficient and underutilized solutions that are consistently failing young addicts. 

There was a report released last week.

The Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults did it. And what it found was that heroin and opiate abuse was the number one health care crisis in the state. It also noted a five year increase of more than 200% in the number of admissions to licensed or certified treatment programs for prescription drug abuse AND a 700% increase over the last decade. 

Take a big breath New Jersey, it isn’t getting better…at least not yet. 

From 2010 though 2013, New Jersey saw some 4,300 drug-related deaths. Nearly 40 of them were due to heroin overdoses just last month. Oh, and that was just in Camden. 

Lets go back to Tuesday. Tuesday, authorities in New Jersey seized more than 300 bricks of heroin, and two suspected heroin mills in Paterson were dismantled as part of the investigation led by the state police. 

And where does it all start? It all starts with a little pad of paper known as a script. 

Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni attributes the root of the state’s problem to the widespread over-prescription of painkillers. 

When they can’t refill those prescriptions, what is known as desperation hits, and when that hits, they hit the streets. Hitting the streets usually means finding heroin, heroin that is cheaper than any prescription pill. Heroin runs for about 5 to 10 dollars a bag whereas prescription pills start off at a about a dollar a milligram or 35 dollars for a lower than average high. 

And heroin? Well, heroin is pure in New Jersey. But that ain’t anything to boast about. 

New Jersey is home to some of the purest heroin in the nation. Enter: Michael Pasterchick, Monmouth County’s chief of detectives and a former DEA agent. He says he tested the heroin and the purity of the samples can be as high as 95%. 

If that doesn’t seem like pretty pure potent stuff. Let’s take a look at what the average purity for street heroin is. Usually heroin purity is only around 31%. The average purity level in New England is usually around 15%. But in New Jersey??? In New Jersey it ranges anywhere from 40 to 48% and higher. 

How do you do it New Jersey?

Well, this is partly because New Jersey is at the center of one of the world’s largest import zones for heroin, much of which enters through Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal and Philly. As it works its way out of the state it gets cut more and more. Want better dope, you go to the source, New Jersey is closest to it. 

And where is the source before the source? Where does the dope come from?

Most of it is coming out of the Andean region of South America believe it or not. Its coming up from Columbia, Peru, and its working its way up through Mexican cartels. The Colombians have the best chemists in the world for refining opiates from the poppies and making heroin. And there are plenty of Colombian drug trafficking organizations that are sending heroin straight up in the good ‘ol US of A. 

Dueling Dragons; Beating the Beast: Fighting the Good Fight

In order to help curb prescription drug abuse, NJ legislators have decided to launch the Prescription Monitoring Program, which keeps track of prescribers, dispensers and even you, the patient. While it is a positive step, there is a glitch, a flaw, a problem, a catch: use of the database is voluntary. This means that most professionals don’t bother messing with it. Who wants to deal with more paperwork right? Less than 18% of eligible doctors and pharmacists have registered to use it. 

Which is wrong. Why? Because this system could help to weed through the prescription fraud and abuse, assisting law enforcement in what can be a very legally gray area. 

So what can NJ do? 

Here is what they have come up with so far. Enter Governor Chris Christie: In order to combat the fatality rate of overdoses, he and the state attorney general as well as the Department of Health and Human services have decided to allow first responders to administer and carry naloxone (NARCAN) as a nasal spray. NARCAN, is a drug used to temporarily counter the effects of opioid overdoses, aka heroin overdoses. 

Christie also signed into law the Overdose Prevention Act in 2013. The OPA (Overdose Prevention Act) gives immunity to those who witness an overdose and call the police for assistance as well as giving immunity to the person who is suffering from the overdose. This is in the hopes that any addict around the dying person doesn’t drop needle and just run for the hills. 

And what about Drug Court right? 

Well New Jersey law enforcement is proud of the state’s drug court program, which is offered to offenders and has certain terms. The terms for drug court usually go something likes this:

1. Stay clean or go to jail

2. Go to rehab (usually)

3. Some sort of probation

While this is awesome, some say it’s not so awesome. Enter: Janet Engle, the founder of a program for recovering addicts called Save Our Sobriety. She says that people who voluntarily seek help are often turned away because rehab facilities prioritize for drug court recipients. 

The Heroin Plauge

New Jersey’s heroin epidemic didn’t happen in a day. And it wasn’t caused by bad policing, ignorant administration, or indifferent parenting. But that doesn’t mean we cannot pay attention to the individuals who are dropping like flies, or kind of like they have the black plague. Until government and law enforcement officials manage to stop the drug’s easy access and release its firm grip  that it has on those who are using it; New Jersey’s citizens will continue to be plagued by the purest dope there is.