New Jersey targets heroin epidemic

 Acting Attorney General John Hoffman briefs reporters on efforts to combat heroin abuse in New Jersey.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman briefs reporters on efforts to combat heroin abuse in New Jersey.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

The top law enforcement officers in New Jersey say heroin is an epidemic in the state.

And because New Jersey has the highest purity of heroin in the nation, that means the drug can be snorted, said acting Attorney General John Hoffman

“So it doesn’t have the same characteristics of a traditional heroin problem where you have people lying around in heroin dens with needles out their arms,” he said. “It becomes more of like a 1970s cocaine party drug, and that is so unbelievably dangerous for a drug that is immediately addictive.”

Many users who overdose on heroin started abusing drugs by taking prescription painkillers, Hoffman said.

“The ‘journey to death’ is the sad word for it. And it is people that get an operation, take a narcotic, get hooked on the narcotic, go on the street to buy the narcotic, can no longer afford it at $30, turn to heroin for $5 — and they’re done.”

Heroin use in the U.S. continues to rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported that overdose deaths have tripled nationwide since 2010. And New Jersey’s heroin-related fatality rates are estimated at three times the national average

Nearly three-quarters of those who overdose on heroin started on prescription meds they got from the medicine cabinet in their own home or from a friend or neighbor, said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

Authorities are continuing to focus on criminal organizations that import heroin to the area, he said. Meanwhile, federal grants are helping to fund programs that combat heroin abuse.

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