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New Jersey —known as "The Garden State" (as New Jersey farmers produce some 100 different kinds of fruits and vegetables, with some 715,000 acres dedicated to agriculture) -- is now the second wealthiest state in the United States with a median household income of $81,740 in 2018. Given New Jersey's relative wealth, it would be tempting to think that it had been spared the scourge of drug addiction that has ravaged poorer states, but this isn't the case. Despite being relatively well-off in terms of resources, New Jersey continues to have one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the country.
New Jersey had 69,477 hospital admissions for substance abuse treatment during 2015 and of those admissions, over 13,000 patients were admitted more than once during the year. (About 67 percent of all patients were male, and 32 percent were female.) Ocean, Monmouth, and Essex counties had the highest rates of admissions.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's quite complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse is a national problem, and no state in the US has been spared. Over 60,000 overdoses occurred nationwide in 2016, with nearly 175 people dying daily. Drug overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents and guns. These numbers increase every year.
Poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, but this doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. It can also then be harder to get a new job, if someone has been fired from their old one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, the scourge of opioid addiction has blown through New Jersey like a blizzard, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. In The Garden State, nearly 90% of the 2,900 reported drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018—a total of 2,583 fatalities (and a rate of 29.7). Opioid addiction is a particularly menacing foe because it's a malady that can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Prescription painkillers (like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet) are highly addictive, in large part because they activate the powerful reward centers in the human brain. These drugs trigger the release of endorphins, (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters) which mask or interrupt your perception of pain and enhance feelings of pleasure and happiness, creating a short-lasting but extremely powerful sense of well-being. It's only human to love the feeling! And, when an opioid starts to wear off, it's in our very human nature to crave the return of that wonderful sense that everything is perfect and as it should be. This is the first step on the path toward addiction, and it can happen even to people who think they're being careful.
The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive drugs when, in many cases, Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. These drugs may seem safe, especially when doctors prescribe them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a downward spiral into the throes of full-on dependency. In 2018, New Jersey providers wrote 38.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people!
Unfortunately, prescription painkiller abuse can often send people down far darker paths. Opioids often lead to heroin addiction, (as heroin is cheaper than the pills, and usually far easier to obtain on the street.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 15,000 people died from heroin overdoses in 2017. The spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug abusers often then turn to incredibly powerful and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, which sooner or later result in a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
In a recent 2017 study, The Garden State lead the nation in the number of teenagers who say they've used drugs at school; 30.7 % of students surveyed reported either buying, selling or being offered illegal substances on a school campus. And, when another study took a more specific look at opioid abuse by New Jersey youth, the numbers were concerning. 3% of New Jersey youth (ages 12-17) reported using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year. Given how highly addictive we know these drugs to be, this is major cause for alarm.
Marijuana is the third most widely available illicit drug in New Jersey with 11,041 people seeking treatment for it in 2010.
Cocaine remains widely available throughout New Jersey. 2,873 people were admitted in 2010 for smoking cocaine with an additional 1,918 people admitted for cocaine addiction.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), New Jersey had over 155 emergency department events due to methamphetamine in the state of New Jersey and methamphetamine is especially gaining in popularity in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey area.
The good news for New Jersey residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Garden State is awash in resources, whether you just need counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or full-on detox services. All it takes is the courage to take the first, terrifying step. Embrace the pain that got you here. Use it, own it, and move past it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
New Jersey State Facts
New Jersey Population: 8,413,990
Law Enforcement Officers in New Jersey: 31,336
New Jersey Prison Population: 44,200
New Jersey Probation Population: 132,846
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 25
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in New Jersey
Cocaine: 1,888.5 kgs.
Heroin: 145.8 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 0.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 676.4 kgs.
Ecstasy: 11,051 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 0 (DEA, state, and local)
New Jersey Drug Situation: The State of New Jersey is situated between the major industrial markets of New York and Pennsylvania and has been referred to as the “crossroads of the east.” It is also a gateway state, with major interstate highways, roadways, airports, seaports, and other infrastructures capable of accommodating voluminous amounts of passenger and cargo traffic from both the eastern and western parts of the United States, if not the world. New Jersey can therefore be considered an ideal strategic corridor as well as a vulnerable corridor for transportation of drug contraband and illicit currency. Over the past year, drug trafficking activity and drug prices in the Newark Division area of responsibility have remained relatively stable.
Cocaine/Crack in New Jersey: Cocaine HCL remain widely available throughout the state and is the drug of choice in most parts of the state. Just as heroin, distribution points are generally located on street corners in low-income areas in various cities. Cocaine is mainly sold in vials with colored tops or small zip lock bags. The movement of cocaine to the southeastern New Jersey area is usually accomplished via couriers from New York and Philadelphia.
Crack which also remains widely available is usually purchased as cocaine HCL from sources in New York and Philadelphia and cooked by local distributors and is specifically seen in economically depressed areas of each southeast county in New Jersey.
According to source of information as well as intelligence gathered through traditional investigative techniques, there has been a slight rise in cocaine transportation through the Newark Liberty International Airport via small parcel companies by Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs). These DTO’s use contacts at airports to bypass security and place cocaine-laden suitcases on planes.
Heroin in New Jersey: Heroin represents the most significant narcotic problem in New Jersey and accounts for more admissions to state treatment centers than cocaine, marijuana, and all other drugs combined. South American heroin remains readily available throughout New Jersey, continuing to sell at low prices and high purity levels. In the southern portion of the state, heroin is transported via car or bus from New York City and/or Philadelphia. Heroin is available in various forms, such as in glassine bags with brand names stamped on them, as well as pellet and brick forms. In several areas throughout the state, especially in the southern portion, a bundle of heroin now consists of 13 glassine bags instead of the traditional 10 glassine bags. Heroin purity in the Newark area continues to be among the highest in the nation. Heroin continues to originate from Colombia and is smuggled into the United States primarily by Colombian and Dominican organizations. Points of origin for the heroin are Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Honduras. Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin and Puerto Rico are utilized as transshipment points. Heroin traffickers are still using “swallowers” (couriers) to transport heroin into the United States. According to source information, these couriers typically fly from Colombia into the United States, mainly Miami, Florida.
Methamphetamine in New Jersey: According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), there were over 155 emergency department mentions associated with methamphetamine in the state of New Jersey. According to source information, methamphetamine is gaining in popularity in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey area because cocaine is scarce. Intelligence and source information continues to identify that Filipino traffickers are importing large amounts of methamphetamine from Mexico and the Philippines. The methamphetamine is converted to “ice” in the Los Angeles, California area and then transported to the New York/New Jersey area via motor vehicle. Ice is also being shipped through various mail and parcel services.
Diverted Pharmaceutical Drugs in New Jersey: New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of both pharmaceutical and chemical firms in the country. Doctor shopping, employee theft, and/or fraudulent phone-in prescriptions remain a source of diversion throughout the state. In the southern part of the state, intelligence and source information has notice some questionable prescribing habits of some doctors in their jurisdiction that seem to be contributing to diversion of OxyContin, Percocet, Hydrocodone and Xanax products via indiscriminate prescribing and/or sale of prescriptions to known drug abusers. Intelligence has also revealed an emerging trend that indicates that prescription rings based in Philadelphia, PA are traveling to pharmacies in southern New Jersey to have prescriptions filled.
Marijuana/Hashish in New Jersey: Marijuana is the most widely available and frequently abused illicit drug in the region. Marijuana continues to be shipped from various cities along the Southwest Border region via commercial air. Furthermore, the use of automobiles, tractor-trailers, vessels, US Postal Service, overnight services, parcel post continues to be utilized by DTO’s. Most of the marijuana seizures in the state have occurred at Newark Liberty International Airport, where passengers from Southwest Border states attempt to smuggle marijuana usually wrapped in cellophane and placed within luggage.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been 16 MET deployments in the State of New Jersey since the inception of the program: Asbury Park, Camden, Paterson, Atlantic City, Lakewood, Passaic, Plainfield, Pleasantville, Trenton, Long Branch, Jersey City, Newark (2), Elizabeth (2), and Perth Amboy.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There has been one RET deployment in the State of New Jersey since the inception of the program, in Camden.