We started a conversation with Geraldo Rivera, but how are we going to continue it?

In case you missed it, I had the privilege of being on “Geraldo at Large” on the Fox News Network to discuss heroin abuse in New Jersey and across the country. You can find a release as well as the full segment on our website.  Geraldo Rivera offered us a great opportunity to get this knowledge out there to parents all over our state to start that all important conversation about substance abuse. But now that we have opened up this discussion, it’s important that we continue it.

Let’s start with the facts. In 2012, there were 53 overdose deaths in Ocean County alone. I think we are all in agreement that this is far too many. But when you look at the number of overdoses this year, it’s likely to shock you. 

107. 107 overdose deaths just in Ocean County THIS YEAR. 107 lives tragically have been lost. If this trend continues, the statistics for 2014 could be utterly devastating. But we can halt this epidemic in its tracks and here’s how.

We were fortunate enough to be joined by Angela Cicchino, a recovering heroin addict, who was brave enough to share her story in the hopes that she could save others. Geraldo asked her when her parents became aware that she had a problem with heroin. She flatly answered, “After my first arrest.”


                                           (image credit: emcdda.europa.eu)

And therein lays the problem. If we are to have any progress in the fight against the heroin epidemic, there needs to be early prevention done at home. Parents need to be aware of this frightening trend in substance abuse and have open and honest communication with their kids about it.

It’s important to remember that the 107 families who lost a loved one are not the only ones directly impacted by this disease. To find out why, we need to look at another epidemic that is ravaging our country: prescription drug abuse. According to the CDC, for every one death due to prescription drug overdose that is reported, there are 10 people admitted to treatment centers for abuse, 32 trips to the emergency room for misuse and abuse, 130 people who abuse or are dependent on prescription drugs, and 825 non-medical users. Why is this significant? According to another study by the CDC, 50% of heroin abusers say they started by abusing prescription drugs.

The biggest issue we see that parents around the state have to overcome is how to bring it up. Obviously, it’s difficult to simply bring up drugs out of nowhere. So start small. Ask your kids how their day was. Ask them what they are doing tonight. Ask them about things that are important to them. Show your kids that you can be trusted. Then let them know that substance abuse is dangerous and you don’t approve of it. Simply knowing how you feel about substance abuse can be enough to keep them away.

Our mission at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is to educate the residents of New Jersey about substance abuse, especially the young people. But our many campaigns and initiatives can’t accomplish this mission alone. We need concerned parents and citizens to rise up and say we will not accept heroin abuse in our community. We need people to say that 107 dead in our county and state due to this epidemic is 107 too many. We are all partners in this battle, as indicated in the very name of our organization.

Speak often, speak constructively, but above all speak now.

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