Blog

  • Study: Opioids No More Effective than Common Painkillers at Treating Pain

    Posted 3/14/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Overprescribing and misuse of prescription opioids have helped to fuel the current epidemic in New Jersey and around the country, which claimed more than 1,900 lives in New Jersey and more than 50,000 nationwide in 2016.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has supported efforts to curb overprescribing, including new legislation passed in New Jersey last year that requires prescribers to discuss the addictive nature of opioids as well as possible non-opioid alternatives to address acute and chronic pain.

     

    Using alternatives to opioids can eliminate or lessen the potential for addiction, and in many cases can result in more effective treatment.  

     

    A government study released last week supported that case, finding that opioids were no more effective than common painkillers, like acetaminophen, in treating patients with chronic back pain and arthritis.

     

    The year-long study found that opioids did not prove more effective in improving pain related to daily functions and were less effective at alleviating pain intensity. Patients on opioids also reported more side effects.

     

    This study provides further proof that opioids are an effective option in some cases. However, they may not be the only answer in addressing both acute and chronic pain in patients.

     

    The opioid crisis is not slowing down, as indicated in a CDC report last week stating that emergency room visits for opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from 2016 to 2017. It is imperative that New Jersey residents become educated on the risks associated with prescription opioids and realize that there may be safer options available to help treat pain.

  • Funding a Good Start to Address Opioid Epidemic

    Posted 3/8/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Last Friday, I had the honor to join Senator Bob Menendez for a press conference in Elizabeth to discuss the importance of $6 billion in federal funding that will be used to address the opioid crisis.


    In 2016, more than 2,200 people in New Jersey died from a drug overdose, about 1,900 of which were opioid-related. That means that every day, five new families in New Jersey grieved the loss of a son or daughter, a mother or father, a brother or sister.


    As the crisis has worsened in the past few years, there has been a consistent cry for help for funding to provide treatment, recovery support and prevention to keep other families from experiencing the same tragedies that too many have already endured throughout the country.


    Thanks to the efforts of Senator Menendez and his colleagues in Washington, this appropriation of funds is a positive step to face the opioid epidemic head-on.


    Education will continue to play an important role in preventing further substance use and addiction. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will do its part by continuing the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series in collaboration with The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.


    Upcoming town halls are scheduled in Cape May County (April 19), Hudson County (April 24), Passaic County (May 3), Hunterdon County (May 9) and Mercer County (May 23). Residents in each of these counties are encouraged to join the conversation on the opioid crisis to gain a better understanding of the dangers of prescription opioids and their link to the use of heroin.

  • Family Breakfast Brings Together Partners in the Fight Against Addiction

    Posted 2/28/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This morning, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey had the pleasure of hosting the Third Annual Breakfast for Families and Communities Impacted by Opioid Abuse at Aloft Mount Laurel Hotel.

     

    The breakfast drew a great crowd of New Jersey residents directly affected by the opioid crisis and united advocates from several fields involved in the fight to end the epidemic. Events such as these are vital to both showing support to those who have been impacted by the disease of addiction and working together to develop solutions to the current crisis afflicting New Jersey and the nation.

     

    Only when we come together can we begin to explore solutions to this issue.

     

    I am so grateful to the partners of PDFNJ that participated in the program, including Special Agent Tim McMahon of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division and Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, who provided a law enforcement overview of the epidemic, as well as Michael Schwartz, and President of Health Solutions Network, who spoke about the role of scientific advancements in stemming the crisis.

     

    Recovery advocates Vanessa Vitolo of Victory Bay Recovery Center, Mariel Hufnagel of the Ammon Foundation, Colleen Howard of Parent-To-Parent, Donna DeStefano of PICK Awareness and Suzanne Harrison of King’s Crusade also addressed the audience. These speakers exemplified the courage it takes to overcome addiction or to have a loved one battling the disease, and their willingness to speak out about their experiences is invaluable to reducing the stigma of addiction and helping others.

     

    I also would like to thank collaborators of the event: Parent-To-Parent, King’s Crusade, Victory Bay Recovery Center, Burlington County Commission for Healthy Communities and the Community Alliance Network of Camden County. It’s an honor and privilege to partner with organizations so committed to combatting the opioid epidemic.

  • Exciting PDFNJ Updates

    Posted 2/23/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This is a busy week for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. First, I was featured in a CBS 2 news story, in which I once again discuss the opioid crisis. You can watch the full story HERE.

    Meanwhile, the Partnership’s annual music competition New Jersey Shout Down Drugs, is in full swing after online voting for this year’s contestants began last Friday.

     

    The competition is unique in the way it promotes substance use prevention throughout the state.

     

    High school students write original songs with lyrics that contain peer-to-peer substance use prevention messages. Music is a great form of expression, which gives participants not only a chance to display their musical talents, but also to reach fellow teenagers with messages that promote healthy living, free of the use of drugs.

     

    This year, 57 students comprising 32 musical acts from 14 counties entered the competition. Each and every one of the 32 performers put a tremendous amount of thought and creativity into their songs, so now it’s your turn to help Shout Down Drugs.

     

    The competitors and their prevention songs were unveiled on www.shoutdowndrugs.com on Friday for the start of the online voting period, which will run through March 2. The highest vote-getter during that period will earn an automatic spot and join the county finalists at the 14th annual Prevention Concert, which will be held Friday, April 27 at Daytop New Jersey in Mendham. Tickets are FREE and available HERE.

     

    We know these students’ messages about substance abuse prevention can make an impact on the epidemic New Jersey currently faces regarding prescription opioid and heroin use. I urge you not only to check out the work of this year’s competitors and vote for the songs you like best, but also to listen to the songs and think about the prevention messages they convey.

  • Educating Families... a Key to Prevention

    Posted 2/14/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Sharing knowledge with parents has always been the cornerstone of PDFNJ. We are pleased to share with you today a recent segment from Inside Edition that features longtime PDFNJ collaborators Special Agent Tim McMahon, Community Outreach Coordinator DEA-NJ Division and Donna DeStefano, Founder and CEO of Parents in Connection for Kids Inc.

     

    In this featured segment Tim shares important information on unexpected places in each of our homes that can be used to hide drugs and paraphernalia.

     

    With PDFNJ’s continued focus on families, I would like to share with all of you information about the 3rd Annual Breakfast for Families and Communities Impacted by Opioid Abuse. This complimentary breakfast will be held on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at the Aloft Mount Laurel Hotel in Mt. Laurel, NJ.

     

    Reservations are required and anyone interested in attending can register here.

  • King’s Crusade Honors Victim of the Opioid Epidemic

    Posted 2/7/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This week I welcome Suzanne Harrison, Anne Gutos and Judy DiGiacomo to the blog to discuss the mission of King’s Crusade, which they founded following the overdose death of Suzanne and Anne’s brother and Judy’s son, King Shaffer, in 2016.

     

    King was one of approximately 2,000 New Jerseyans to die of an opioid overdose that year. King’s Crusade helps provide assistance for those with limited resources seeking treatment. Suzanne, Anne and Judy’s powerful story is an example of the pain this epidemic has inflicted upon families and communities.

     

    I also recently joined Steve Adubato on “State of Affairs,” along with Assistant Special Agent in Charge Christopher Jakim of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, to discuss progress made in fighting the opioid crisis. The show will air today at 5:30 p.m. on WHYY and Friday at 4:30 p.m. on FiOS 1 New Jersey. It can also be viewed HERE.

     

     

    By Suzanne Harrison, Anne Gutos and Judy DiGiacomo

    He was born King W. Shaffer on Dec. 7, 1966, and even as a baby, he was a fighter. In the first days of his life, King’s mom was told he wasn’t going to make it through the night. He proved them wrong.

     

    In his school days, he was teased over his name – even by his teachers. He learned to navigate through it despite having several learning disabilities.

     

    He was a typical if not “mischievous” adolescent who was disciplined with old school ways – by a male figure with a leather belt. He took it.

     

    He enrolled in the Navy in San Diego California and advanced to the Coronado Naval Base as a Navy SEAL in training – he passed “hell week.”

     

    King was a fighter – a crusader in his “first life” we were told – but in this life, his battle with addiction was not to be won.

     

    In 1996, King broke his back on a wave runner and was knocked unconscious. He was later airlifted to a hospital where he was then prescribed Percocet.

  • Using Naloxone to Save Lives

    Posted 1/31/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    A recent study released by PDFNJ found that more than half of respondents to a survey on opioids had little or no concern about the risk of injury or death posed by prescription opioids. These troubling numbers indicate there are some gaps in New Jersey residents’ knowledge on the topic.

     

    The study also provided a look into how much state residents know about Naloxone. More than 80 percent of survey respondents had heard of Naloxone, but less than 50 percent did not know much about it or how to use it.

     

    In the midst of this horrifying opioid epidemic, the use of Naloxone has been a lifesaver for thousands of New Jersey residents. The opioid overdose reversal antidote is carried by most law enforcement personnel and emergency responders, but average citizens are also capable of saving lives with Naloxone.

     

    The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation (TOPAC) trains people how to recognize an overdose and how to administer Naloxone. The organization also educates residents on the Overdose Prevention Act and provides information on treatment and recovery resources.

     

    This week’s guest blog is from TOPAC CEO and President Paul Ressler.

     

    By Paul Ressler

     

    I personally know what it is like to lose someone you love to a drug overdose. On July 14, 2010, I lost my son, Corey, that way.  After years of struggling with the disease of addiction, Corey overdosed. The friends he was with at the time abandoned him — a 911 call not completed. Because I was not alone —drug overdose deaths in New Jersey are the leading cause of accidental death — I knew I had to change the laws concerning helping someone who has experienced an overdose. 

  • Addiction is a Disease

    Posted 1/24/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    This past Sunday, I was deeply troubled to read in the Star Leger an editorial that still questioned the fact that addiction is a disease. Below, is a response to that editorial from PDFNJ’s Board Co-Chair, Elaine Pozycki.

     

    The timing of Elaine’s response and this discussion is coincidentally but appropriately timed with my appearance on tonight’s opioid crisis segment on the 11 p.m. news on CBS – New York Channel 2.

     

    I, along with Vanessa Vitolo of Victory Bay Recovery Center and Mariel Hufnagel of The Ammon Foundation — two collaborators from our Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series — will be discussing the epidemic and addiction from all angles – from patient notification to support of long term recovery. I encourage you to watch and to share this information to educate others on the disease of addiction and important steps we can all take to prevent and raise awareness about substance use disorder.

     

    By Elaine Pozycki

    Regarding the op-ed article on the ReachNJ ads, “Tax money is still going to polish Christie’s image” (January 21):

     

    The author demonstrates, at best, a misunderstanding of the accepted science on addiction and, at worst, a willful dismissal of it.

     

    He writes that he doesn’t believe the “idea that addiction is a disease,” despite the American Society of Addiction Medicine defining addiction as a disease in which there are dysfunctions in the “brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” These dysfunctions cause those with addiction to pathologically continue using substances despite negative mental, emotional and physical effects.

  • Opioid Epidemic Drives Decrease in American Life Expectancy

    Posted 1/17/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    I started 2018 with positive news about the impact prevention can have in addressing the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, it’s now time to share some tragic news that too many Americans have already dealt with personally.

    Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that American life expectancy at birth dropped for the second consecutive year, driven mainly by the overdose deaths of more than 63,000 people in the United States during 2016.

    A vast majority of those overdoses involved prescription opioids and heroin, and deaths due to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.

    The life expectancy of an American dropped a tenth of a year, from 78.7 years to 78.6 years. This represents the first time in more than 50 years that life expectancy at birth dropped two consecutive years.

    Unfortunately, limited data so far available for 2017 indicates a continued increase in drug overdose deaths.

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will continue to fight the opioid epidemic through the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series, organized with The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. We encourage New Jersey residents to attend the upcoming town halls in 2018.

    But beyond just attending these meetings, residents need to act. Speak with friends and neighbors about the risks of prescription opioids and the need to dispose of old and unused medications. Talk to your children about the dangers of drug use. Get involved with local prevention groups to spread these messages more widely throughout your community.

    There are many ways that you can be a part of the solution to turn the tide against this tragic epidemic, and your help is crucial to make progress in this fight.

  • Aiding Those in Recovery Through Education

    Posted 1/10/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Supporting long-term recovery is a major component of fighting the opioid epidemic but one that often is overshadowed. The Ammon Foundation, founded last March, aids those recovering the disease of addiction by providing support to continue education.

    This week’s blog is courtesy of Mariel Hufnagel, Executive Director of the Ammon Foundation whose inspiring story of recovery has been featured in the ReachNJ campaign. Mariel has been a major collaborator with PDFNJ, speaking at events including the faith-based Do No Harm Symposium and several Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls.

    The Ammon Foundation: Our How and Why

    By Mariel Hufnagel

    The country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is claiming an average of 91 deaths per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Overdose deaths have increased steadily over the last 15 years. However, addiction is not a new problem, and there is so much that can be done to effectively support an individual’s recovery. One way to encourage sobriety and stability is through the pursuit of education.

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