New Jersey drug overdose deaths rise
New Jersey saw a record number of overdose deaths in the first half of this year, state data shows, and could surpass the record number of drug-related deaths in 2020 if the current trend continues. .
Between January and the end of June, 1,626 New Jersey residents lost their lives to an overdose, reports the state attorney general’s office – nearly three dozen more deaths than those recorded at this time – there last year. If this rate continues through the fall, more than 3,250 people would die this way in 2021 – an increase of more than 6% from the 2020 total, according to an analysis by NJ Spotlight News.
Overdose deaths have been on the rise for more than a decade in New Jersey before appearing to peak in 2018, when some 3,118 residents lost their lives in this manner. The tally fell to 3,021 in 2019, before rising to 3,046 last year.
Experts say the recent increase reflects the impact of the ongoing pandemic, which has led more people to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with isolation, fear and economic stress and sanitary. Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration continued to invest tens of millions of dollars each year in efforts to expand access to treatment and other social services for people with drug use disorders. substances.
But support for these programs is not universal. In July, Atlantic City voted to close a harm reduction center over concerns about its impact on the resort’s tourist district. It was one of six facilities statewide that offered free clean needles and other aids to injection drug users, a proven way to fight overdoses and the spread of infections. State officials then offered their support for a bill from Senator Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) that would give the state Department of Health the power to decide where harm reduction programs should be located. , instead of local governments.
A multi-year trend
“As we see an increase in drug use and overdose deaths nationwide and in New Jersey due to the pandemic, we must face this public health issue head-on by ensuring access to services. needle exchange exchange in our state, ”said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. , who was acting governor while Murphy was on vacation, said in an Aug. 12 statement arguing for Vitale’s bill.
The latest increase in overdose deaths in New Jersey also tops a multi-year trend. Experts from Rutgers University’s Center for Health Services Research said they found the risk of overdose more than tripled in New Jersey from 2014 to 2019, based on Medicaid data that included both deaths and people who were treated and survived.
The team of researchers – led by Professor Stephen Crystal, Molly Nowels and Peter Treitler – also found that the increased risk of overdose coincided with an almost 50% decrease in prescription opioid use among members. of Medicaid. And it happened as fentanyl, a synthetic opioid several times more potent than heroin, became a more common ingredient in street drugs; police seizures of suspected heroin containing fentanyl increased from 2% to 80% here over the six-year period.