While many people will be tailgating in anticipation of the Don Bosco vs. Bergen Catholic rivalry football game, Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney will be using the time to tackle the opioid crisis. Rooney will join forces with A Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey to share information about the link between prescription painkillers and heroin.
“Our goal is to have teachers, coaches, and parents use this information to discuss the epidemic with their students and children,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “If we can teach families and communities about the known pathways to addiction, we can stop this rising epidemic which has impacted us all.
“There is a stigma attached to addiction – parents think it could never happen to their child, or they may be afraid to confront the fact their loved one has a problem. But addiction is a disease, and no one is immune,” continued Rooney. “For far too many people, addiction begins at home in the medicine cabinet. It’s important for families to understand how dangerous unused painkillers can be.”
The highly anticipated football game between the two rivalries takes place on the eve of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The program provides a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing prescription drugs while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and medications – and focusing on the risks to students, teens, and young adults.
Rooney has made fighting the opioid crisis a priority during his public service tenure. As mayor of Wyckoff, he was instrumental in obtaining a permanent medicine drop box in the township. As an assemblyman, he introduced legislation highlighting a rising trend in addicts using their pets to access prescription painkillers.
Animal prescriptions are not required to be submitted to the prescription monitoring system, but are often the same medications prescribed to humans. The bill has the support of the state’s attorney general.
Angelo Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, said National Take Back Day is a good reminder to families to safeguard their homes by taking the 5-Step American Medicine Chest Challenge.
“Take inventory of the medicines in your home, dispose of any unused, unwanted and expired medicine, secure the medicines you keep, remember to take your prescription as directed, and speak to children about the dangers of misusing and abusing prescription drugs,” he said. “There isn’t a family or community immune from the disease of addiction, and a message of opioid abuse prevention, awareness and education to all NJ families, in all venues, is lifesaving,”
Valente noted that prescription drug drop boxes are available 24 hours, seven days a week in many communities and can be located using the AMCC RX drop mobile app.
During the April 2017 Take Back Day, 217 law enforcement agencies operated more than 230 collection sites in New Jersey, collecting almost 16,000 pounds of prescription drugs. Nationwide, people turned in 450 tons (900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs.
Addiction often starts when patients are prescribed powerful opioids for pain. Studies show that most people who abuse opioids obtained them from a friend or family member, and prescription drug users are 40 times more likely to use heroin. According to the CDC, four out of five new heroin users turn to heroin after abusing prescription opioids.
Most teenagers who abuse opioids first received the drugs from a doctor. Among young people, seven out of the top 10 abused substances are pharmaceuticals. Nearly half of young people who have injected heroin said their drug use started with abusing prescription painkillers. Youth athletes are more susceptible to opioid addiction due to their exposure to injuries and prescription painkillers.