Gov. Phil Murphy has declared Oct. 6 as Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in New Jersey. Angelo Valente, executive director of The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey said the goal of the single-day initiative is to bring together the whole state and focus on ways to help prevent people from going down the path of addiction.

He also said more importantly, the day is about understanding the links between prescribed medicines and the heroin epidemic. Valente urges all families and communities, sports teams, scouts and local law enforcement to come out on Oct. 6 and help get out the word about about the dangers of opiates.

In 2018, there were a total of 3,118 opioid overdose deaths in the state. An estimated 1,387 opioid overdose deaths have been reported as of June 2019, according to NJCares.gov.

Now in it's fourth year, more than 10,000 volunteers plan to canvass neighborhoods to place hundreds of thousands of door hangers. Valente said it's important that people know what an opiate is and when they are prescribed this medication, they understand the addictive quality of this drug. There's also messages on these hangers about how important it is to look for alternatives to opioids when treating acute pain, as well as the consequences to taking these drugs.

A child who is prescribed an opiate prior to high school is 30% more likely to become addicted to heroin going into adulthood. He said there is a strong link between prescribed opiates and heroin abuse and he wants people to be aware of that.

Also new this year for Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is that the local football teams at the local high schools will be wearing messaging on their helmets at the Friday night and Saturday afternoon games to share the message about the links between sports and the opioid epidemic.

Valente said because of sports injuries, athletes are more vulnerable to be prescribed opiates. As a result of that, athletes are much more vulnerable to become dependent on opiates. In many cases, that can lead to a heroin addiction.

To volunteer, visit www.drugfreenj.org.

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