New Jersey’s Heroin Problem Linked To Pain Medication

When many people in Monmouth County think of heroin addicts, they think of hardened criminals living in less-than-sanitary conditions. Many also assume that the people who are addicted to heroin made a conscious decision to start using the drug. The Star-Ledger reports, however, that many of the youngest heroin addicts in New Jersey actually started using heroin because of over-prescribed pain medication.

At one point serious pain medicines were easily available. Doctors would write prescriptions for powerful opiate-level medicines without thinking twice, flooding the market with easily accessible drugs. As teenagers and others in New Jersey became addicted, doctors realized what was happening and stopped issuing so many prescriptions. Many believe that this has driven individuals to using the next best thing, heroin.

And, the heroin addiction is becoming more of a suburban phenomenon. No longer are drugs only found in New Jersey’s bigger cities. Currently, the highest per capita rate of people under 25 being admitted to treatment for heroin abuse is in Cape May. Moreover, the amount of heroin that is being imported from abroad is making the switch from prescription medications to heroin, at least initially, extremely inexpensive.

For some of the youngest addicts of heroin, there was very little choice in whether to start using the drug. Because these addictions can be all-consuming, it is understandable that teenagers went from one controlled substance to the next-most-available one. Recognizing that many of these teens no longer have much control over their addictions, is it really fair to lock them up and send them to prison? Shouldn’t the focus be on treatment and starting over clean?

Source: The Star-Ledger, “Heroin use among young in N.J. is up, and in more suburban areas,” Dan Goldberg and James Queally, Oct. 7, 2012

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