Statewide Study Finds Nearly 1 in 3 Parents Do Not Link Painkillers with Heroin Abuse


Press Release: For Immediate Release: June 14, 2016

Contact: Taylor Lier, Media Coordinator, 201-916-1032,


Statewide Study Finds Nearly 1 in 3 Parents Do Not Link Painkillers with Heroin Abuse

click the image to download/view the key findings


MILLBURN –  As New Jersey battles an opioid abuse epidemic, a Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) study, released today, found that nearly one in three parents of New Jersey middle school students do not believe there is a link between painkillers prescribed for things like sports injuries and wisdom tooth removal and the rising use of heroin in New Jersey.

The study also found that less than 50 percent of parents feel they are knowledgeable about heroin.

“Parents in New Jersey must take heed, prescription drug abuse is happening in our homes and in many cases leading to heroin abuse– unfortunately no family is immune from this epidemic,” said Angelo M. Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “40% of New Jersey parents still walk into a physician’s office not understanding the link between prescription pain medicine and heroin,” Valente explained. 

According to the CDC, opioid pain relievers that are abused were most often obtained via prescription from physicians. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids and users of prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to use heroin.

The PDFNJ 12th Annual Tracking Study of Parent Attitudes and Behavior in Alcohol and Drug Abuse also found that 60% of parents feel that kids get prescription and over-the-counter drugs out of the home medicine cabinets, while only 15% considered a friend’s medicine cabinet as a source for the abused drugs. However, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, approximately 70% of people who abuse prescription medications get them from family or friends, often from the medicine cabinet.

PDFNJ’s American Medicine Chest Challenge encourages all parents to secure their medicine cabinets, take inventory of the medicine in the home, safely dispose of their unneeded and unwanted medicine and talk to their children. According to Valente, “parents’ behaviors toward managing unused, unwanted and expired medication have changed in one key respect: the number saying they have disposed of unused, unwanted, and expired medicine at a local disposal site has increased significantly, 25% compared to 16% in 2014.”

“Parents need to be notified by their child’s physician of the addictive qualities of these opioid based drugs when they are prescribed, so they know the signs and symptoms of abuse, can discuss possible alternatives with the prescriber, and know to properly secure these medicines,” said PDFNJ Co-Chair, Elaine Pozycki. She noted a bill was recently introduced by the New Jersey Legislature, Assembly Bill 3424, calls for physicians to have conversations with parents of children under age 18, about the potential for dependency and possible alternatives, when prescribing an opiate. “Education and awareness is the key factor in preventing the abuse of opiates,” explained Pozycki.

PDFNJ focuses on educating parents, physicians, and community leaders about the dangers of prescription pain medicine and the link between prescribed opiates and heroin abuse rates, according to Valente. He explained, the Before They Prescribe- You Decide PDFNJ 2016 public health campaign is geared at educating parents on the link between prescribed prescription pain medicine and heroin abuse and encouraging them to speak to their doctor regarding the addictive qualities of pain medicine and the possible alternatives. “This study showed that public service campaigns continue to positively influence New Jersey parents,” explained Valente. He noted:

  • Eight in ten parents (80%) say the ads encouraged them to talk to their children about using drugs or alcohol
  • Almost six in ten say the ads made them more aware of the risks of using drugs and alcohol
  • Nearly half of parents (47%) feel that the anti-drug ads have given them new information or told them things they didn’t know about drugs or alcohol. 
    • Importantly, the more frequent the exposure to anti-drug ads, the greater the likelihood that a parent was:
      • encouraged to talk to their children about the risk of using drugs and alcohol
      • made more aware of the risks of using drugs and alcohol
      • felt the ads had given them new information

Other findings include:

Parents’ Views Toward Alcohol Leniency

More than eight in ten (88%) parents of a 12 to 15 year old child said their child would never be allowed to drink, up 6 points from the 2014 Study.

Parent Conversations Matter:

The study found that only seven in ten parents have talked to their children about the proper use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs; However, parents with older children aged 18-24 were asked the extent to which they thought earlier conversations with their children impacted the older child’s decision whether or not to use drugs or alcohol and almost all  (95%) felt that expressing their opinions in these conversations had a very important impact on their child’s future decisions on whether or not to abuse drugs and alcohol.  

GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications was commissioned by The Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey to conduct a telephone survey among a sample of 500 parents with children ages 12-15 in New Jersey.  This is the seventh time this study has been conducted since 2006. The sample was randomly drawn from listed sample purchased from American Student Lists and Dunhill. Interviews for this wave were conducted from January 19 - February 7, 2016. Data were weighted to New Jersey census data for key demographics of households with children ages 12-15. Margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 5 percentage points for the total sample. 

Interview opportunities are available upon request

Best known for its statewide anti-drug 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 $50 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 over 126 Advertising and Public Relations Awards from National, Regional & Statewide Media Organizations.