Paterson, NJ- While the growing problem of opioid abuse has gained attention from the highest levels of government, it’s efforts at the local level to educate student athletes about the dangers of misusing painkillers that can have a real impact on the community.

That’s the theory at least behind the launch of SOAP, the Stop Opioid Abuse Program, a joint effort by the New Jersey State Pharmacy Owners (GSPO) and the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). SOAP will regularly share student-focused materials with public, private, and parochial high schools across New Jersey. Other components of the SOAP initiative will include additional community outreach, regular updates to and interaction with state legislators and drug manufacturers, plus volunteer efforts by GSPO members.

Saying that they are “enthusiastic about any program that may curtail the likelihood of opioid abuse,” Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, suggested that SOAP is a reflection of the organization’s mission to “serve and protect” high school athletes. Because injuries often lead to a prescription for opioids students who participate in high school sports are, according to a report release by the NJSIAA, “particularly vulnerable to abusing powerful painkillers.”

Paterson pharmacy owner and GSPO member Warren Cortese said that he is “all too aware of just how many people struggle with dependency on opioid painkillers.” Cortese Pharmacy will participate in the SOAP initiative because “it’s an opportunity to focus attention on one particularly at-risk group of individuals, and provide crucial, educational information that may be able to help.”