A South Jersey Drug Enforcement Administration official says the toxic combination of rampant opioid and heroin abuse, coupled with the extreme hazards of fentanyl abuse, have created a crisis in New Jersey.

"We are in the midst of an epidemic," said Nick Kolen, assistant special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration in South Jersey, which has jurisdiction over nine counties.

"In New Jersey, we are nearly triple the national average from overdose deaths. The numbers in South Jersey are equally staggering. Proportionally, when we look at the numbers of drug-related deaths, we see that they are up in almost all counties."

Kolen points out that the abuse of fentanyl is a key factor.

"We are seeing fentanyl, now being put in all kinds of drugs, in every drug. We are seeing it not just in heroin," he said. "We are seeing fentanyl being put in cocaine. We are seeing fentanyl being put in methamphetamine. We are seeing fentanyl even in the spray on marijuana."

He says the DEA has ramped up a strong response. Kolen says they are enhancing drug enforcement, more pharmaceutical and doctor regulation and getting out into the community with education and awareness.