Opioid Crisis

New Jersey service providers who work with drug users say the state has come a long way in implementing “harm reduction” strategies but that more can be done.

Hundreds of public health workers gathered in Trenton on Wednesday for a harm reduction workshop organized by the Department of Health, as the state continues to battle a growing opioid crisis that contributed to a suspected 3,118 drug overdose deaths in 2018.

For one day this month, New Jersey residents will be able to walk into dozens of participating pharmacies across the state and obtain the overdose-reversing drug naloxone free of charge.

The June 18 event is the latest salvo in the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis in New Jersey, which saw more than 3,100 drug-overdose deaths in 2018.

Overdose-prevention advocates praised the move by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, saying the life-saving treatment for opioid overdoses needs to be more widely available.

New Jersey could become the first state in the country to require warning labels on prescription opioid medication that identifies it as an opioid and cautions against the risk of addiction.

The legislation’s sponsor hopes that the latest attempt to stem the state’s ongoing opioid crisis will save lives.

“We have to be aware of what this is. We have to be aware of what this is doing to our country. It is truly an epidemic,” said Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic.

New Jersey patients can now cite their opioid addiction as a qualifying condition to get medical marijuana, state officials announced Wednesday.

The news came as a welcome change to officials and advocates trying to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and find innovative ways to battle an unrelenting opioid crisis.

At a press conference at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Gov. Phil Murphy said marijuana can be used “both as an alternative to [prescription] opioids … but also as a weapon for folks who are trying to struggle their way out of an addiction.”

Ang Santos / WBGO

The New Jersey Attorney General's office is suing Janssen Pharmaceuticals, alleging the company deceived consumers about the dangers of its opioid painkillers.  It’s the first such case brought by the Office against a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey.

“We allege that Janssen masterminded a public relations campaign to undermine accepted medical practices.  It used a network of sales representatives to push it’s misleading marketing.  It quietly funded front organizations that peddled it’s bogus theories,” said NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Ang Santos / WBGO

St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson implemented a program in 2016 that researches and uses certain pain management methods, as an alternative to prescription opioids. 

“At a time where we have a national crisis, at a time where we have models some of which are here in New Jersey that we know work.  We should be funding those models and expanding those lessons learned,” New Jersey US Senator Cory Booker said. He’s calling for federal funding to create alternative pain management programs in hospital emergency departments nationwide.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's proposed state budget includes $100 million to combat the opioid epidemic.

Murphy says $56 million would be used for drug prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

"We know that coordinated approaches that bring together treatment including access to medication assisted treatment and peer-based recovery coaching can be highly effective."

The Governor says $31 million would be used to attack social risk factors that can lead to relapse.

  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says it’s time to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid epidemic.

“Those who created the problem have to feel the consequences, change their ways and finally address the damage they have done.  The suit targets seven manufacturers and three distributors who are most responsible for creating this crisis.”

He says they deceived the public, while putting lives at risk, all for the sake of profits.

Ang Santos / WBGO

The Office of the New Jersey Medical Examiner says there were more than 2,000 drug related deaths in New Jersey last year.  A majority related to drugs like heroin and its stronger synthetic counterpart fentanyl.  Dr. Andrew Kaufman with the University Hospital Comprehensive Pain Center in Newark says the state’s northern counties have had better success dealing with overdose.