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Tackling NJ’s Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic [AUDIO]

To deal with the growing prescription drug and heroin abuse problem in New Jersey, the State Senate Health Committee heard from experts in the field of substance abuse and addiction about the state’s efforts to promote prevention, treatment, and recovery from opioid addiction.

Prescription Drugs
Flickr User Charles Williams

The experts feel education and the raising of public awareness are paramount in getting on a grip on the issue that is impacting kids and adults alike. Committee chairman Sen. Joe Vitale says prevention is the clearly the key.

“In New Jersey only three cents of every dollar you spend on this problem goes to prevention and treatment,” says Dr. Susan Foster, vice president at Columbia University’s National Center on Substance Abuse and Addiction. “Ninety-seven cents goes to shovel up after the fact in our prisons, our jails, our health programs (and) our schools.”

According to Foster the state can’t afford to focus only on opiods or any one particular type of drug unless addiction and risky use is also examined. The issue must be addressed comprehensively because not doing so creates yet another problem.

“We will continue to have what is characterized American drug policy to date,” explains Foster. “That is a costly game of ‘whack-a-mole’ where we focus on reducing use in one area only to see it emerge in another…..As has been done for other health conditions such as depression and HIV/AIDS you can implement a public health campaign to educate the New Jersey public.”

Dr. Lou Baxter, with the New Jersey Division of Addiction Services tells lawmakers that kids get 70 percent of their prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets of family members and friends and that’s why educating parents is so crucial.

In the Garden State says Baxter, 72,000 people are currently seeking treatment for substance abuse and addiction, but fewer than 10,000 hospital beds are available for them.

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