Richie Sambora Discusses Drug Dangers [AUDIO/VIDEO]
Crowds lined up for hours at the Pine Belt Arena buzzing about the appearance of former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. It wasn't a concert but rather the third installment of the Ocean County Prosecutor's seminars on the dangers of heroin.
Nearly 4,000 people attended Tuesday's seminar, more than double the crowd of the first presentation seven months ago.
Sambora performed "Lighthouse," a song about recovery that was specially written for the night. He also serenaded the crowd for an extra half hour, treating them to songs from his solo career as well as hits from the band Bon Jovi.
While the concert was a treat for the audience, the rocker's message was a somber one, chronicling the dangers of substance abuse.
"This is the most dangerous thing, there's no getting out alive with this thing," Sambora said. "There's no messing around."
Sambora has had a very public battle with alcoholism, noting during a press conference before the presentation that he met with his recovery coach only the day prior.
Though the guitarist said he never used heroin, he has seen its effects firsthand.
"I know maybe nine or 10 guys who played with me when I was a kid, dead from heroin," he said.
Though Tuesday's seminar was the third of its kind in the county, the attendance continues to increase. Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato said more parents are taking note.
You have 112 people die from an overdose and you lead the state, that sends a crisis message," Coronato said. "Hopefully people understand that this is of crisis proportions."
The prosecutor said that during their first seminar in Toms River, they expected between 300 and 500 people, but about 1,000 people attended. A second performance in Manahawkin brought in 1,000 attendees as well.
The seminars are a large part of the education aspect of the prosecutor office's efforts to combat the drug. They are funded through money seized in drug busts.
In 2013, authorities said 16,158 bags of heroin were seized, a 154 percent increase from the previous year.
Maureen Morella, who told the story of her son who became paralyzed and suffered severe brain damage after using heroin, said she adamantly dismissed the misconception that heroin addicts are the children of "low class families" or "bad parents."
"The amount of mothers and fathers that I have met and the amount of wakes I have attended of beautiful children from beautiful families proves there simply isn't a demographic," Morella said.
The daughter of Sambora's former bandmate, Jon Bon Jovi, had also faced a public struggle with heroin.
"One little mistake because of peer pressure, you got to be strong," Sambora said. "That scares the hell out of me."