CDC Report Finds Mixed Results for Opioid Prescribing in New Jersey Counties

Since the opioid crisis began to grip New Jersey and our nation, one of the crucial goals in stemming the tide of addiction was addressing the overprescribing of pain medication. The good news is that the number of opioid prescriptions decreased nationwide from 2010 to 2015. The bad news is that doctors gave out longer prescriptions and the average strength of prescriptions was still high, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last week.

The report also revealed that the number of prescriptions in parts of New Jersey remained high. An report detailed the disparity in prescriptions written across the state’s 21 counties.

While the rate of prescriptions per person dropped in 10 counties from 2010 to 2015, it increased in nine counties and did not change in two others, the report said. The totals are measured in “morphine milligram equivalents,” or MME, “which measures the total dosage of opioids while correcting for differing strengths among different drugs.”

Hudson County checked in with a rate of 370 MME per person, the lowest of any county in the state. At the top of the list, Camden County had an MME of 1,230 per person, which actually represented a 9 percent drop from 2010, according to the report.

The Partnership has actively worked to reduce overprescribing by the medical community through its Do No Harm Symposium Series. The Do No Harm symposiums provide information to doctors and health systems to help them make sound decisions for patients and better understand the link between opioid prescribing and rising heroin abuse. New legislation passed by New Jersey lawmakers earlier this year limits the length of initial opioid prescriptions to five days.

The Partnership is also organizing the second annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in New Jersey on October 6th. The statewide single-day initiative will mobilize families, the prevention and treatment communities, community leaders and concerned citizens to raise awareness of potential dependency on prescribed pain medicine and its link to heroin abuse rates in the state. Visit to volunteer.

With the new law in place and the highlighting of further education on prescribing practices, it is our hope that the number of opioid prescriptions decreases in every New Jersey county in the next report.

One other key takeaway from the report is that the disparity of the prescription totals between counties shows the opioid crisis — while existing in every part of the state — does not look the same everywhere. That is why it is so important that our Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series visits every county in the state, so that we can learn the scope and factors of the opioid crisis from people in different communities. 


 By David Matthau 


New Jersey’s opioid epidemic continues to rage on, but there are a few hopeful signs the trend may finally be starting to change.

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the total prescriptions written for opioid pain medication in the Garden State between 2010 and 2015 dropped about 3 percent. But in Ocean County, considered the epicenter for the epidemic in the state, the number of prescriptions written during that period dropped by 18 percent.

“That’s a drop we’re definitely very happy to see,” said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

He noted the trend is positive but “we need that drop to continue, we need the people to educate themselves with regard to the danger of opioid addition.”

He also stressed the opioid epidemic won’t be solved by law enforcement efforts alone.

“We need to see that our healthcare providers join with law enforcement in getting the message out that it’s a real danger to people and it’s a real driving factor in terms of deaths that we see,” said Della Fave.


He stressed to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions being written, authorities have worked “with healthcare providers in the area, stressing the need to lower the prescription rate, to monitor it closely, to track those individuals who are receiving prescription meds, and how often they get them.”

He added as the number of prescriptions goes down, authorities will be watching to see how this translates to the opioid overdose death rate.

“We always stated it’s going to take multiple years of statistics to see if we’re really having a positive impact,” he said.

Della Fave stressed we know there is a correlation between younger people who have suffered sports injuries and get an opioid painkiller prescription, and the number of people who turn to and become hooked on heroin after their prescriptions run out.

“This means we need to see the close monitoring and the close oversight in terms of prescription meds,” he said.


He said on Aug. 1, Ocean County is having a major prescription pill “take back day” when residents will be asked to bring unused painkiller medications to drop off zones so they can be disposed of properly.

He says another part of the puzzle is to increase awareness about alternate painkiller drugs that can be prescribed that are not habit forming.

“Everything needs to be pursued in terms of making a real impact with regard to the opioid crisis.”

Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, said having fewer opioid prescriptions being written is certainly positive.

“There’s no question it’s a good sign, but we still have a long way to go when we have numbers as high as they are,” he said.

Valente says the multi-faceted model of addressing the epidemic we’ve seen in Ocean County needs to be replicated in other parts of the Garden State.

“We need to be able to bring together all of the stakeholders in those communities. We need to be looking at alternatives to opioids.”

While the overall number of opioid prescriptions written in New Jersey has dipped, Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties continue to see higher numbers of prescriptions being written for painkiller medications.

It is not clear what’s driving that trend, but the CDC indicates areas where there are a higher percentage of uninsured and unemployed people tend to have higher rates of opioid prescriptions being issued.

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