One issue that has been particularly concerning in New Jersey over the past several years is the prevalence of dangerous drugs. The opioid and addiction crisis that developed over the past decade hit the state particularly hard. While many harmful substances exist, one stands out as the most dangerous drug: fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is many times more powerful than heroin. Medical professionals use it to treat severe pain, but an illegal form of it is now a popular street drug. Because it is so potent, it only takes a tiny amount to cause someone to overdose. In fact, just a few milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly. The problem with fentanyl is that it is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, without the user’s knowledge. This makes it even more dangerous, as people may unintentionally take a lethal dose.
What is the scope of the opioid problem in New Jersey, and why is fentanyl the most dangerous drug? Read on to learn more about the opioid crisis in New Jersey.
Why Is Fentanyl the Most Dangerous Drug in New Jersey?
Fentanyl isn’t the most volatile substance in the world. In fact, it is used as a prescription drug. In the right dose, it can be an effective pain reliever. However, it’s so potent that the right dose can be challenging to measure without medical or pharmacological training. Fentanyl is effective at the microgram level.
At 2 mg (milligrams) or 3 mg, fentanyl is fatal for most adults. That’s a very small amount, about the weight of a single snowflake. That makes it around 100 times more powerful than morphine. Drug dealers mix the powerful drug into other substances or cut it with inert powders. But when lethal doses are so small, measuring a safe dose is hard.
Other fentanyl analogs can be even more powerful. For instance, carfentanil, a derivative of fentanyl, is about 100,000 times more powerful than morphine, but it’s much less common. Illicit fentanyl has become more and more common in New Jersey. A person using heroin is likely to accidentally take fentanyl eventually.
How Has Drug Use Affected the Communities and Individuals in New Jersey?
Drug use has long been a significant concern for New Jersey’s communities and residents. The impact of drug use on the state has led to several negative consequences, including economic costs. The substance abuse problem affects families, businesses, and the overall safety of the neighborhoods. An area’s drug use problems are often related to an uptick in crime, directly and indirectly, and also related to the drugs themselves. The problem also affects community healthcare costs, as emergency services, hospitals, and clinics respond to a rise in overdoses and other drug-related health issues.
Drug use severely affects people battling it. Addiction can affect your ability to hold a job and care for yourself. You may neglect personal hygiene, health, and other important aspects of your life. The families of individuals addicted to drugs are also affected. Addiction to drugs can lead to a breakdown in family relationships, as the individual becomes more focused on their addiction than their family. This can lead to financial strain and emotional stress within local communities.
Since fentanyl is an extremely powerful drug, it is usually associated with an uptick in overdose deaths. In communities where a significant supply of fentanyl hits the streets, the likelihood of an uptick in deadly overdoses is high. Law enforcement and first responders entering areas with large amounts of fentanyl may be at risk if they inhale the powder.
The opioid crisis has a huge economic cost for New Jersey and the country. Opioid misuse and overdose have led to $35 billion in annual costs in the United States, per a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Opioid overdose hospitalizations cost $1.94 billion annually. In the U.S., the total economic cost of opioid use disorders in 2017 was 3.5% of the total GDP, according to a report. New Jersey was above the national average at more than 4%.
Homelessness is a common consequence of long-term substance use disorder (SUD). As a person prioritizes drug use, they may find it difficult to maintain employment, which leads to a loss of residence. Homelessness can be a barrier to sobriety for addicted people, and addiction can be a barrier to escaping homelessness. In 2016, there were 8,895 homeless people on a given night in New Jersey, and more than 21% were experiencing chronic substance use disorders.
Drug Use Statistics for New Jersey vs. the U.S.
Drug use has hit New Jersey hard in recent years, with a significant increase in drug-related deaths and hospitalizations. In the United States, there were 106,699 drug overdose deaths in 2021. Around 80,411 of those deaths involved opioids.
Overdose Statistics in New Jersey
NJ Spotlight News reports 3,046 drug overdose deaths occurred in New Jersey in 2020. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, drugs chemically similar to fentanyl, have been found in more and more drug seizures. Law enforcement noted an increase from 2% to 80% in fentanyl-laced heroin drug seizures over a six-year period.
So, what can New Jersey address this problem? Education and awareness are key. People must understand the risks associated with fentanyl and know what to do if they suspect someone has suffered an overdose. Ultimately, the best way to combat the fentanyl epidemic is to prevent people from falling into a cycle of opioid use disorders (OUDs), which increase your risk of encountering dangerous opioids like fentanyl.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Drug Use in New Jersey
Drug use is a serious problem in New Jersey, and staying informed about the issue is important. Here are some frequently asked questions about drug use in the state.
Are all drugs illegal in New Jersey?
No, not all drugs are illegal in New Jersey. New Jersey has a list of controlled dangerous substances (CDS) that are illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture. This list includes cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and LSD. Possession of these drugs can result in severe penalties, including jail time and fines.
However, some drugs are legal in New Jersey, but only with a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional. These drugs include medications such as pain medications, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs. Fentanyl is a prescription drug, but it’s usually reserved for use in hospitals as a fast-acting pain reliever. Most illicit, street-level fentanyl doesn’t come from the same legitimate sources that prescription fentanyl comes from. Instead, it is made in clandestine labs and smuggled into the country.
It is important to note that even if a drug is legal to possess with a prescription, it is still illegal to distribute or sell it without a valid license. You could face serious legal consequences if caught selling prescription drugs without a license. While marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, New Jersey has made it legal as a recreational drug for adults 21 years old or older. However, it is still illegal to sell or distribute marijuana without a valid license.
Does insurance cover drug treatment facilities?
For many, concerns about cost are a common barrier to addiction treatment. The good news is that insurance typically covers care from drug treatment facilities, at least in part. However, the extent of the coverage can vary depending on several factors, including the type of insurance you have and the facility you choose.
Before entering a drug treatment program, it’s important to thoroughly review your insurance policy to understand what’s covered and what’s not. This can help you avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses and ensure you receive the care you need without financial strain. Additionally, many drug treatment facilities offer financial assistance or payment plans for those who cannot afford treatment, so it’s always worth exploring these options as well.
Ultimately, seeking treatment for drug addiction is a critical step toward recovery, and insurance coverage should never be the sole deciding factor in seeking help.
How can I get a free insurance evaluation in New Jersey?
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction in New Jersey, resources are available to help. One of the first steps to getting treatment is determining what your health insurance plan will cover. Fortunately, free insurance evaluations in New Jersey can help you understand your options.
To get started, you can reach out to local addiction treatment centers and ask if they offer free insurance evaluations. For instance, you can speak to a representative at Quantum to verify if we accept your insurance. Most private insurance providers are accepted, but the amount of coverage you get will vary according to your plan. Even if your insurance is out-of-network with your preferred treatment center, treatment may still be covered.
The Pew Charitable Trusts. (2021). The high price of the opioid crisis, 2021. The Pew Charitable Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/data-visualizations/2021/the-high-price-of-the-opioid-crisis-2021
Missouri Hospital Association. (2019, April). The economic cost of the opioid crisis. https://www.mhanet.com/mhaimages/Policy_Briefs/PolicyBrief_Economic_Cost_ofthe_Opioid_Crisis_inthe_U.S._0419.pdf
CSH. (2017, March). CSH policy brief | March 2017. www.csh.org. https://www.csh.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/NJ-Opioid-Brief-Final.pdf
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2023, March 31). Drug overdose death rates. National Institutes of Health. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
STAINTON, L. H. (2021, September 2). Drug overdose deaths rising in NJ | NJ spotlight news. https://www.njspotlightnews.org/2021/09/nj-drug-overdose-deaths-rise-heroin-fentanyl-pandemic-isolation-stress/