The North Jersey Heroin Epidemic

Bridget Grenier

Over recent years, North Jersey has become infected with an epidemic of heroin usage, selling, and abuse, and it seems that the light at the end of this dark tunnel is nowhere in sight.

According to a recent series of reports by reporters from The Record, the heroin epidemic has become alarmingly widespread throughout North Jersey because of prescription opioid painkillers such as Opana and Oxycontin. Many people, especially teens, are introduced to these newer narcotics after athletic injuries, such as soreness and broken bones, minor surgery such as wisdom tooth removal, and other not-so-uncommon injuries or surgeries. After the prescribed number of pills are taken, some people find they have developed a dependency on the medication and experience a need to continue taking it. Thus, people have been turning to heroin because it offers physical relief similar to what their painkillers once did.

Unfortunately for North Jersey, due to doctors prescribing these opioid drugs for almost any injury or pain, suburban youth is found to be the most heavily infected by this epidemic. Ellen Elias from the Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources in Hackensack told The Record that the age population that heroin is most widespread is 18-25 year olds. According to Rebecca D. O’Brien’s article in The Record on North Jersey’s heroin epidemic, the National Survey on Drug Use and Addiction said that between 2009 and 2011 the heroin-dependent youth more than doubled from 53,000 to 109,000 nationwide. Many people throughout North Jersey are unaware of what is happening in their own backyards. Popular places to snort or inject the drug are on highway shoulders, like in Wyckoff and Fair Lawn. To bring it even closer to home, between January 2013 and April 2013, there have been two heroin arrests in Hawthorne, five in Garfield and six in Wayne by the drug task force. The number one hotspot to sell and buy heroin for years has been Paterson. Laquan Hargrove from the Paterson Youth Services Bureau shared with The Record that he is alarmed by how common it is becoming in the lives of our youths. He said it has spread to every corner of every city in North Jersey. Youths aren’t going incredibly out of their way to obtain the drug either. Heroin can be bought for only $5.00 per bag. However, once true addiction and true dependence hit, it can be as expensive as $300 a week, reported O’Brien from The Record. It is produced from the common painkiller morphine which is extracted from the Asian opium poppy plant and takes on the form of a white powder, according to an article on drugabuse.gov.

The heroin infection has left authorities, parents, and professionals on the subject wondering what can be done to stop the addiction. If anyone knows someone struggling with addiction, call the New Jersey Drug Abuse Treatment Program at 1-800-943-0566 for help and information.