To the editor:

In 2015, more than 33,000 people in the U.S. died of an opioid overdose. As stunning and tragic as that figure is, the final death total for last year is expected to be even higher, and early data for this year indicates a continued rise in overdose deaths. The opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels, and there is no time to waste in addressing it.

On Oct. 6, volunteers throughout New Jersey will lead an effort to raise awareness about the epidemic as part the second annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day. The statewide single-day initiative will mobilize citizens to distribute vital information about the potential for dependency on prescribed pain medicine and its link to heroin abuse rates. The effort will focus on both educating physicians and raising awareness overall.

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While it’s becoming more difficult to ignore the tragedies associated with this epidemic, there are still many people who are unaware of the link between prescription opioids and heroin abuse. A Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey study last year found that nearly one in three parents of New Jersey middle school students do not think there is a link between pain killers prescribed for things like sports injuries and wisdom tooth removal and the rising use of heroin. The study also found that less than 50 percent of parents of middle school students feel they are knowledgeable about heroin.

It's time to make sure everyone is equipped with information that could help save lives. Freedom House has joined in the efforts planned. Please join us and visit the website for more information and to sign up to volunteer.

Tracy Moran

Freedom House

Clinton Township