TRENTON — The New Jersey State Legislature reaffirmed its commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic and its support for the efforts of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey by proclaiming October 6 as "Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day" in the state.

The opioid epidemic has continued to inflict unbearable tragedy upon the state. Through the first nine months of 2018, more than 2,100 people in New Jersey have died of an overdose, a vast majority of which were opioid-related.

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and doctors began to prescribe them at greater rates. Before it became clear how addictive the drugs could be, abuse of these medications became widespread, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In fact, opioid overdose rates have risen ever since.

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 In 2015, more than 33,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses of prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder. Further, an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)

It’s not just a big city problem.

“Opioid use is up. In the Borough of Fanwood, we have saved over a dozen lives with the use of Narcan (an antidote to opioid overdoses) in the last several years,” said Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo in an interview with TAPintoSPF. “The opium problem does not discriminate. It’s everyone’s problem. It does not discriminate.”

Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is a project of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, in cooperation with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Addiction Services; and the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris, with help from partners across the state.

The event is a statewide initiative that feature parents, prevention and treatment professionals, community leaders, students and other concerned residents sharing prevention information with the medical community and New Jersey residents and families.

“The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is grateful for the support of the New Jersey State Senate and General Assembly in addressing the opioid epidemic,” said Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Executive Director Angelo Valente. “Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is vital to making significant progress against the opioid epidemic. Educating our residents and healthcare providers is a key step in preventing the tragedy of overdose deaths and addiction that has already affected far too many New Jersey families and communities.”

For information on Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, visit drugfreenj.org/knockoutvolunteers. To learn about volunteer activities in your area, contact Matt Birchenough at media@drugfreenj.org or 201-916-1032.