New Jersey investigates painkiller addiction among youth

A task force appointed by Gov. Chris Christie is examining the growing problem of prescription drug addiction by young people in New Jersey.

One of the task force members, former Gov. Jim McGreevey, says some high school students who suffer sports injuries become addicted to painkillers prescribed by their doctors.

“We don’t give children car keys, but tragically we give them opiate prescriptions, and these youth don’t have the benefit of judgment, discernment and discipline,” said McGreevey.

One 21-year-old Rutgers student testified he took some oxycodone that was prescribed for his father and became addicted to it during his senior year in high school.

“In the middle of active addiction you don’t value your own life. My life meant nothing to me. I didn’t care if I lived or died. It did not matter to me,” said the student identified only as Ryan.

“So I saw no harm in taking my own life because my life was worth nothing to me,” he said, adding that he managed to kick the painkiller habit after going to rehab and spending six months in a halfway house.

Parents of some addicts who died from prescription drug overdoses say more must be done to raise awareness of the dangers of painkiller abuse.

The task force will hold other hearings throughout the year before issuing its recommendations to deal with the problem.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.