Established on March 20, 2012, the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse establishment of a Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey's Youth and Young Adults (Task Force) is a major step toward addressing the prescription drug epidemic. The goal of the Task Force is to tackle the pressing issue of heroin and other opiate use by New Jersey's youth and young adults, which have increased dramatically over recent years.
Acting Chairman Neil Van Ess appointed 13 Task Force members who possess unique knowledge, skills, experience and expertise related to alcoholism, drug abuse, and associated concerns, particularly as it relates to heroin and other opiate use amongst youth and young adults.
Van Ess appointed former Governor James McGreevey as a member of the Task Force. McGreevey currently works with the Hudson County Correctional Center Integrity House Program as a counselor and has become a leading advocate in New Jersey for addiction treatment and re-entry reform.
In November 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported deaths from prescription painkillers reached epidemic levels in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths is now greater than those from heroin and cocaine combined. According to the CDC, in 2010, about 12 million Americans (age 12 or older) reported nonmedical use of prescription painkillers in the past year.
The use of prescription pills is becoming more prevalent among teenagers and is leading to heroin addiction, according to several experts who testified before the State Commission of Investigation in June 2011. Law enforcement experts testified prescription pills are easily accessible to teenagers, and a "gateway drug" to heroin.
In New Jersey, addiction treatment admissions for opiates other than heroin for New Jersey's youth and young adults (25 years old and younger) represented nearly half (46 percent, 3304 admissions) of all other opiate use admissions in 2010 and jumped a staggering 1,145 admissions from 2009. These admissions are for non-prescription use of methadone, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, opium, and other drugs with morphine-like effects according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Heroin addiction treatment admissions for this age group has also climbed to 5,815 in 2010, more than 1,100 more than in 2005 when there were 4,675 admissions according to SAMHSA. Overall heroin admissions have declined from 2005 to 2010, from 23,377 to 21,942. However, heroin remains the primary drug of choice at admission, representing 31.6 percent of total admissions in 2010.
To date, New Jersey has taken important strides in combating this epidemic most recently with the launch of a Prescription Monitoring Program by the Division of Consumer Affairs in January 2012. The PMP and other policy initiatives by the state to address this issue are to be commended. Through the Task Force, the Council will exercise its statutory authority to review and coordinate all state departments' efforts in regard to alcoholism and drug abuse so that the state's efforts with respect to heroin and other opiate use by New Jersey's youth and young adults can be coordinated in the most effective and efficient manner.
|08/03/2012||PRESS ADVISORY: August 29th Hearing Set by Task Force on Youth Use of Heroin and Opiates|
|07/23/2012||NEWS COVERAGE: Task Force on Youth Use of Heroin and Opiates – July 10, 2012 Hearing|
|07/02/2012||Press Advisory: July 10th Hearing Set by Task Force on Youth Use of Heroin and Opiates|
|07/02/2012||News Coverage Updated: Task Force on Youth Use of Heroin and Opiates 05/29/12 Hearing|
|05/24/2012||PRESS ADVISORY: May 29th Hearing Set by Task Force on Youth Use of Heroin and Opiates|
|05/08/2012||Task Force Hearing Schedule Set, Two Additional Members Announced|
|04/04/2012||Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by NJ Youth Established (w/ member biographies)|