New Jersey High Schools to Spread Opioid Awareness through Athletics


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 27, 2018

Contacts: Matt Birchenough, 201-916-1032,


New Jersey High Schools to Spread Opioid Awareness through Athletics

NEW JERSEY — In the coming weeks, student athletes, coaches and administrators from high schools throughout the state will help to spread vital messages about the risks of prescription opioids and their link to heroin use as part of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s third annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day.

More than 50 schools across 15 counties have signed on to share crucial information about the opioid crisis ravaging the state. The epidemic has affected people of all backgrounds, regardless of wealth, race, religion or age. However, New Jersey’s youth athletes can be even more susceptible to opioid addiction in large part due to sports injuries and access to prescription painkillers to treat them.

Schools will distribute handouts detailing the dangers of opioids to spectators at games and provide stickers and wristbands to help create awareness among students and parents. Football players will wear helmet stickers with a Knock Out Opioid Abuse logo. While Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is held on October 6, several schools will be taking part in the event on alternative dates corresponding with home contests in football and other sports.

“Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is crucial to educating all New Jersey residents about the risks of prescription opioids and the need to take action to stem this opioid crisis that has inflicted tragedy on too many New Jersey families,” said Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Executive Director Angelo Valente. “It’s encouraging to see so many high schools and athletic departments across the state take action to protect their student athletes by informing them, their coaches and their parents about the risks of prescription opioids.”

A recent University of Michigan study found that male youth athletes were twice as likely to be prescribed painkillers during the previous year and four times more likely to misuse them compared to males who did not participate in competitive sports. Another study by the University of Michigan found that college students who participated in at least one interscholastic sport during high school had higher odds than non-athletes of being approached during their lifetime to divert their opioid medications.

The use of opioid painkillers, while sometimes necessary, does raise the risk of addiction, especially in children. A 2015 study found that legitimate opioid use before high school graduation is independently associated with a 33 percent increase in the risk of future opioid misuse after high school.

The first Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day was held in 2016, and the New Jersey state legislature responded by declaring October 6 as Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in perpetuity in the state.

More than 10,000 volunteers participated in last year’s event, distributing crucial information on safe prescribing practices to healthcare providers, as well door hangers to residents in neighborhoods throughout New Jersey. Volunteers also organized events, such as songwriting contests, candlelight vigils and charity walks to spread messages of prevention and recovery.

Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day is a project of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, in cooperation with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Addiction Services; and the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris, with help from partners across the state.

For information on schools that are participating in Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, contact Matt Birchenough at or 201-916-1032.


Best known for its statewide substance use prevention advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication.  To date, more than $100 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership’s New Jersey campaign, making it the largest public service advertising campaign in New Jersey’s history. Since its inception, the Partnership has garnered 174 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.