Governor Chris Christie praised the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) for its leadership in the state and country in the fight against the opioid crisis, during a press conference today on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day being held Saturday, April 29.
“The work of the Partnership is really groundbreaking, and now the rest of the country is catching up to what they’ve been doing,” Christie said Wednesday at the Toms River Police Department.
PDFNJ, along with the DEA of New Jersey, the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, and several local law enforcement agencies, helped spearhead the first statewide day of disposal in the nation 10 years ago, when 25,000 New Jersey residents took advantage of the event to dispose of unused medicines.
Because of this unprecedented success, the program - called at that time “Operation Medicine Cabinet” - was recognized as a best practice by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The Drug Enforcement Administration replicated the New Jersey initiative throughout the country and created the National Take Back Day we are recognizing this Saturday throughout the country.
The event provides an important reminder of the potential hazards associated with prescription medications. Residents can participate this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by locating a collection site here and discarding expired, unwanted, or unused medications. The program is free and anonymous, with no questions asked.
The opioid crisis and its hundreds of thousands of deaths have made drug abuse front-page news. It was a central issue in last year’s presidential primary season. This is unlike any drug crisis in our history. People have long known about heroin, and lately prescription pain medications like OxyContin have crept into the public consciousness.
Recently, one variety of synthetic opioid not widely known has emerged as the most lethal narcotic of the bunch: fentanyl. To address fentanyl and other issues regarding the opioid epidemic in NJ, we hope you will join a PDFNJ/Horizon Foundation for New Jersey Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall in your area by clicking here.
Fentanyl’s potency is 50 times that of heroin - which it’s sometimes mixed with. Adding it to heroin creates a deadly mix that is tempting to people addicted to other opioids; until it causes an overdose that takes them to death’s door and, all too often, ushers them through it.
A great deal of focus has, understandably, been on the opiate epidemic in recent years. With April being Alcohol Awareness Month, this seems like a good time to refocus on a problem that has produced more than its share of tragedies - underage drinking.
A recent study that was reported on by the New York Times updates data on the issue and looks at strategies to deter youth drinking generally, but considers the lethal combination of drinking and driving and some methods for reducing it.
The study, published in February in the journal “Pediatrics”, examines alcohol policies and alcohol-related car accident deaths. It found that the majority of under-21 car fatalities happen in the evening.
It proposes policies that aim to curtail drinking as well as ones that seek to reduce the chance that those youth who are drinking will get behind the wheel or be a passenger in car driven by someone who has been drinking.
"This is an epidemic that knows no boundaries and shows no mercy, and we will show great compassion and resolve as we work together on this important issue." - Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey is among the states that have grappled with the country’s opiate crisis, and has introduced several effective policies and strategies to curtail it. It faces some of the greatest challenges and has also responded to the problem with initiatives that are both innovative and compassionate. On the illegal drug side, the state’s ports are susceptible as conduit for smuggled heroin, and the state is known to have some of the most potent heroin in the country. Much of the current crisis stems from overprescribing of these medications.
Last week Governor Chris Christie was appointed by President Trump to head the Commission on Combating Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Governor Christie has a long history in understanding the complexities and issues surrounding drug dependency and addiction. He is an outstanding choice to lead this commission. This commission is to report in 90 days on issues including treatment availability, best practices, and state prescription monitoring programs, and education/prevention programs for youth.
Governor Christie has made treating addiction his legacy issue. From expanding NJ’s drug court, to treating drug offenders, and to promoting use of Narcan in reviving overdose victims without fear of prosecution. New Jersey has also developed a recovery mentor program for those who overdose and are vulnerable to relapse. Christie’s final State of the State centered on the opiate crisis and he called on the legislature to respond with statutes. One of these was a bill capping initial opiate prescriptions at five days.
Governor Christie’s mantra on the drug issue all along has been that all lives are worth redeeming and deserve a second chance. At the announcement of his appointment to chair the commission, the governor repeated this view. We hope that President Trump will embrace some of the measures taken by NJ to serve as a national template and recognize that the country’s most valuable resource is its people.
The most fundamental rule of medicine is do no harm. Yet in treating pain, some physicians have inadvertently put their patients on the path to addiction. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reveals how just a handful of opioids can lead people into drug dependence. According to the CDC’s findings, an initial 10-day prescription results in one in five patients becoming long-time users.
PDFNJ has long recognized the need to reign in prescribing practices to help combat the opiate epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives over the last decade (nationally, the CDC estimates 91 people die every day of opiate overdoses). In its work to address the opiate crisis, PDFNJ has enlisted Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opiate Prescribing, to help convey the message that doctors need to rethink liberal prescribing of opiates. Another essential component in this fight is ensuring that pain treatment receives much more attention in medical school.
Excessive reliance on prescribing opiates for pain is the root cause of the opioid epidemic that New Jersey and other states have encountered over the last decade. The message doctors must absorb is that anything more than a three-day prescription risks a putting a patient in harm’s way; the last thing the practice of medicine should do. NJ recently took a step in this direction with a measure that caps initial opiate prescriptions at five days. PDFNJ is looking to build on this progress with a series of Do No Harm Symposiums, the next two of which are March 30th at Capital Health Medical Center in Pennington for dentists and April 6th at Newton Medical Center for doctors and other prescribers.
Atlantic County, NJ while best known for its Steel Pier, casinos, and picturesque seaside communities is also dealing with a prescription drug and heroin epidemic. Atlantic, like every other county in NJ and throughout the U.S., is looking for ways to address this public health and safety crisis.
One of the most effective ways to develop a comprehensive response to any public health issue is to bring together experts, community leaders, the faith-based community and, most importantly, impacted families to begin a dialogue.
Based on this proven formula, we invite all residents of Atlantic County and the surrounding communities to participate in the first Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall on Monday, April 10, 2017. The Town Hall will be held at Stockton University – Alton Auditorium from 3:30pm to 6pm. Please join the conversation as we discover best practices to address this epidemic and share these ideas with communities throughout NJ.
Click the read more link to register for this Town Hall at Stockton University.
Please forward this invitation to friends, colleagues, and family that are interested.
In reviewing the responses from doctors who attended a Do No Harm Symposium hosted by PDFNJ, a common theme was the need to evaluate and update prescribing habits. Based on new information regarding the highly addictive qualities of opiates, I am so pleased to see that some members of the medical community are embracing this lifesaving change. Specifically, a recent study at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center demonstrated that limiting the prescribing of opioids did not cause any negative reactions by individuals recovering from surgery.
When we started this blog in June 2013 there were infrequent articles and stories about the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. It wasn’t unusual for weeks to go by without any significant news coverage of this epidemic tearing apart families and communities throughout our country. What a difference four years makes. From this week alone I would like to share with you three featured articles that address this crisis from distinct perspectives.
The first article appeared in NJ’s Asbury Park Press and discusses the complicated issue parents face about sharing their own personal experiences with drug use and experimentation. The second story is from The Inquirer, a Philadelphia newspaper, and explores how a labor union has been directly impacted by the tragedy of opioid dependency and heroin addiction. It further describes how the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is taking their message to the streets. Finally, in what most observers are calling a monumental turning point, Governor Hogan of Maryland has declared a state of emergency in response to the opioid crisis engulfing his state.
PDFNJ will continue to share with each of you the latest developments in the fight against opiate dependency and heroin addiction in this blog.
Several years ago New Jersey was one of the first states in the nation to require law enforcement and first responders to carry the lifesaving drug naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone has been used over 11,000 times in NJ to save thousands of lives since 2014.
Over the last year, PDFNJ has been collaborating with Morris County Prevention is Key in promoting a series of trainings for an expanded group of individuals who have the opportunity to administer naloxone in emergencies. These groups include school nurses and families who are dealing with an opiate-dependent or heroin addicted member. Upcoming naloxone training can be found here.
This week the CDC has expanded the universe of individuals who should be carrying naloxone to include all patients who are prescribed opiates. It is important to note that naloxone is available at Walgreens and CVS pharmacies throughout NJ without prescription.
For close to a decade PDFNJ has been advocating for doctors to consider non-opiate therapies as a first-line treatment in addressing chronic and acute pain. PDFNJ’s position was based on the fact that so many families have shared similar stories about opiate prescribing leading to opiate dependency and heroin addiction.
I am so pleased to report that the American College of Physicians has officially changed their longstanding recommendation from treating chronic pain with opiates to now treating the same pain with alternative non-opiate therapies. These published guidelines mirror PDFNJ’s concerns and strategies.
It also should be noted that New Jersey’s newest trailblazing law signed by Governor Christie requires doctors and dentists to discuss non-opiate alternatives with the families of minor patients and make note of the conversation. PDFNJ provided NJ legislators with crucial information over the last decade to help craft this groundbreaking law (A3424/S2156).