nj.com: 'It's a problem for everybody': This is what the opioid epidemic looks like in Hudson County


Kim Luciano and her daughter Allison attended a vigil in May for Kearny residents who've fallen victim to drug overdoses. They wrote on balloons the names of loved ones and friends they've lost to drugs, a list that includes both of their fathers.

It was a somber day of healing and support, especially for Allison, who'd been battling heroin addiction for five years.

"I don't want to write your name on a balloon," Luciano told her daughter.

But a month later, Allison Gaynor died inside the bathroom of a Popeye's in Belleville.

Luciano believes her daughter, who had been in and out of rehab five times, may have used fentanyl that day, a powerful synthetic opioid that authorities say is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. She was 24.

"I still can't believe it," Luciano said. "The first couple of weeks I was just numb to it all."

"And now the realization starts to set in that she's not coming home."

The anguish Luciano's family has endured is just a glimpse of the opioid epidemic plaguing the country. Nationally, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2017, according to a Centers for Disease Control report released last week. Drug overdose deaths have been so prolific, the life expectancy in the U.S. decreased in 2017 for the second time in three years.

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