Anti-heroin campaign aimed at shore towns

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In an effort to fight opiate abuse in New Jersey, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has launched an awareness campaign that will target the state’s shore towns.

Officials have described the rise of heroin use and other opiates as an epidemic, and timed the launch for the start of summer, citing an increase of drug deaths at the shore.

The campaign “Addiction Does Not Discriminate” is intended to show residents “that no one is immune to this deadly drug problem,” the council stated in a release. It will also provide residents with information about preventing abuse, recognizing warning signs, and finding treatment. A website, was launched in conjunction with the campaign to give residents that information.

From May through September, the campaign will focus on outdoor advertising, particularly at Jersey Shore areas that have seen an increase in fatal opiate overdoses, the council said.

The ads will feature a composite face, which the council said represents that prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction are not attributable to a particular demographic. They will bear the message, “Your medicine cabinet could be a gateway to heroin” and include the Know Addiction website address.

The launch of the campaign is the first implementation of recommendations made by a task force report about heroin addiction and opiate abuse that was commissioned by the council. That report was released in March.

According to that task force report, the use of heroin and other opiates has become the number one health crisis confronting New Jersey. Drug overdose deaths now surpass the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, which had always been the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

In 2013 New Jersey saw nearly 6,700 admissions to state-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs due to prescription drug abuse, an increase of nearly 300 percent over the past decade. More than 30 percent of opiate admissions for treatment involved persons 25 years old or younger, the task force report found.

“We are fighting a well-documented epidemic in which the abuse of prescription painkillers traps young people in addiction and leads them to heroin,” Neil Van Ess, the council’s elected chairman said. “Our awareness campaign will help erase the stereotype of the heroin user as a back-alley denizen. It will help parents and young people understand that addiction is a disease, and that it can affect any family and every community.”

In the coming months, the council and its state partners will distribute outreach materials to schools, community groups, and other venues. The tagline “Your medicine cabinet could be the gateway to heroin” will alternate with other messages intended to reach various target audiences.

The campaign is partnership between the council and the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, including its Division of Consumer Affairs, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, and Division of State Police; the New Jersey Department of Human Services and its Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services; the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey; the New Jersey Department of Education; and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

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