SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In an effort to educate and inform its students about the dangers of the opioid epidemic, Union Catholic hosted a presentation on Tuesday morning called “H.O.M.E.’’, which stands for Heroin & Opioids Meet Education.

The presentation was conducted by Officer Victoria Smith of the Union County Sheriff’s Office, which started the program this past October.

Officer Smith explained to more than 100 UC students what opioids are, the different types of opioids (heroin and fentanyl are two examples), where they can be found, what they look like, how easy they are to obtain, the short term and long term problems the drug can cause, and the deadly effects it has.

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Officer Smith revealed some troubling statistics.

  • In 2015, 276,000 U.S. adolescents (ages 12-17) were non-medical users of pain relievers with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.
  • In 2015, an estimated 21,000 U.S. adolescents (ages 12-17) had used heroin in the past year and 5,000 were current heroin users.
  • In New Jersey, there were 1,587 overdose deaths in 2015 and 2,090 to 2,250 overdose deaths in 2016. As of November 3rd, Union County had 84 overdose deaths in 2017.

Mrs. Jennifer Dixon, the Director of School Counseling at Union Catholic, said the opioid epidemic can’t be ignored, and she was grateful that Officer Smith spoke to the UC students.

"The opioid epidemic is real and not something we can ignore and pretend it doesn't affect us,’’ said Mrs. Dixon. “Our hope is that programs like this educate our students about the dangers of starting drugs or abusing prescription medication, and also recognizing the warning signs of friends and family who may be in danger. We are so thankful that Officer Smith was able to speak to our students this morning.’’