The opioid abuse epidemic has caused great suffering and hardship for thousands of individuals, their families and friends across the Garden State — but there are other substance abuse issues besides opioids that also continue to cause death and misery.

“We know that alcohol abuse among young adolescents, teenagers, pre-teens, is a major issue that needs to be addressed. In many cases it leads to the experimentation of other drugs,” said Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey.

He said we're also seeing meth spikes, and abusive use of vaping products by young people

Valente stressed while efforts to slow down and eradicate the opioid epidemic continue, we must never let down our guard for these and other addiction issues.

Don Parker, president and CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic, and president of all of the behavioral health services in 17 hospitals in the Hackensack Meriden Health system, said while the recent focus has been on opioids, more treatment facilities have opened in New Jersey in recent years. He said there is an awareness that people are using and becoming dependant on a variety of legal and illegal substances — not just prescription painkillers and heroin.

“Our mix changes some to be reflective of the (trends on) the street," he said. "We’re still steady on doing alcoholism, we’re still steady on doing other types of drugs other than opioids.”

Parker said members of the treatment community are waking up to the rise in methamphetamine use once again.

“As they begin to see the numbers start to climb they’ll become more aware of it and most of us, if we’ve been around long enough, we did this earlier," Parker said.

Methamphetamine use spiked during the 1990s, then gradually subsided, but recently has been coming back in New Jersey and other states.

Parker said to deal with the growing use, “we’re going to adapt new techniques and new principles. I hope there’s a medication that helps us like Narcan.”

Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said while there is a strong focus on stopping the opioid abuse epidemic, “we’re not taking our eye off the ball with other issues or problems, addictions that might exist with some in our community.”

He said meth has not become a major problem in Monmouth County to this point, but “we’re up to the task of focusing on it as widely as possible, not at the exclusion of one versus the other.”

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