Over the past year there has been a widespread effort in New Jersey to educate the public and the medical community about the dangers of pain medication abuse. But a new study finds a lot of people aren’t getting the message.

About 2,000 New Jersey residents died of opioid overdoes in 2016, the most recent year statistics are available.

But the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey survey finds a majority of New Jersey residents are not very concerned about the dangers of prescription opioids.

About 17 percent of respondents indicated they were very concerned about the risks associated with opioid pain medication while 29 percent said they were somewhat concerned.

A majority of New Jerseyans said they were either not very concerned or not concerned at all about the risks associated with prescription opioid addiction.

Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, said more must be done to make sure people understand “prescription drugs and opioids are and can become potentially addictive, and that in many cases that leads to heroin abuse.”

Valente pointed out the survey found while a majority of New Jerseyans indicated they were not directly impacted by the opioid abuse epidemic, a sizable majority, 62 percent, said they do believe opioids can become potentially addictive.

“I think we have a situation here where people understand the issue but they may not believe it could affect them, and that’s an issue I think we’ve been dealing with for quite some time."

He stressed it is now well known that “the epidemic is impacting every neighborhood in every community, and unfortunately families throughout those communities.”

So what’s next?

Valente said to raise the awareness level, efforts must continue to spread the word about how serious an issue this really is.

“It really needs a full-court effort to be able to bring this message to as many people as possible.”

Valente said said we need to reach out to people “in schools, in houses of worship, in businesses, and certainly in the community-wide events that the Partnership and many other organizations have been hosting.”

In 2017, a study conducted by the National Safety Council found 41 percent of respondents did not consider prescription pain medication to be a potential cause of injury to themselves or members of their family.

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