Heroin Overdoses Are Killing One Person Every 48 Hours In This New Jersey County

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Opioid abuse is at epidemic levels across New Jersey and is set for an exponentially worse year, with one county experiencing a heroin death roughly every two days.

There are roughly 128,000 heroin users in New Jersey and health experts fear that number is likely growing. The epidemic — which is ravaging states across the country — claimed 918 lives in 2015, the highest annual death toll from the drug ever seen in New Jersey. Drug overdoses jumped overall by 21 percent between 2014 and 2015 in the state and opioid addictions are fueling the increase. Even more disturbing, health experts in the state expect the data from 2016 and 2017 to be far worse than the current numbers, according to the Observer.

Ocean County in particular is consumed by heroin overdose fatalities, which may eclipse 200 in 2016, though the numbers are not yet final. That would be roughly one heroin death every 43 hours.

“The unfortunate part is that I think the reality is that probably within the next year to two years that you’re going to see the death rate either double or triple from our current standards,” Joseph Coronato, Ocean County prosecutor, told NJ.com. “We need to really make a determination as to why are our numbers here in Ocean County continue to spiral out of control.”

Authorities note that no one is safe from the opioid epidemic, since the addiction plagues all races, ages and communities, regardless of income. Many people who overdose on substances like heroin began with a dependence on prescription painkillers, but switched after building high tolerances that made them too expensive.

Officials in Ocean County said overdoses are observed with people ranging from ages 12 to 72.

New Jersey is among a number of states that have seen sharp increases in the overdose death rate from opioids in recent years. Heroin overdoses killed 281 people in Wisconsin in 2015, accounting for more deaths than car accidents and tripling the number of fatalities linked to heroin over figures for 2010. Between 2010 and 2015, one in every 1,000 residents of Wisconsin was hospitalized for a heroin or opioid drug overdose.

New York experienced a 135.7 percent increase in synthetic opioid and heroin-induced deaths between 2014 and 2015. Connecticut saw a 125.9 percent increase over the same time, while deaths in Illinois spiked 120 percent.

South Carolina experienced the largest increase in the heroin death rate, up by 57 percent between 2014 and 2015. The heroin death rate also rose 46 percent in North Carolina and 43.5 percent in Tennessee over the same period.

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