Drug overdose deaths in the Garden State have been steadily rising for years but finally there is some good news to report. For the first six months of 2019, the number of fatal overdoses was down 7% compared to the same timeframe in 2018.

From January through June 30, state Department of Law and Public Safety data shows there were 1,387 drug overdose deaths.

Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, said the trend is encouraging, “but certainly we also need to continue to inform New Jersey residents about the dangers of this epidemic.”

He said the statistics clearly show “treatment is possible, that recovery is possible, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Valente said the decrease in overdose deaths is due to several factors, including “the concept of trying to get folks into treatment as quickly as possible after naloxone is administered. Certainly, medically assisted treatment has been proven to be successful.”

He also noted limiting the amount of opioid drugs given in a prescription, and having doctors using a Prescription Monitoring program are also playing a part in the trend.

And there's awareness.

“There’s been a very aggressive effort to educate residents about the epidemic, and I think that is also a contributing factor," he said.

He said these efforts are needed to make sure we continue to see “more people getting treatment, more people getting help, and most importantly more people avoiding the path of addiction.”

Valente said we may also be at the start of a cultural shift.

“I think we’re looking at ways to address pain, and especially acute pain, other than through opioids as a first line of defense," he said.

“In New Jersey, we’re the first state in the nation to require that a patient is informed about the addictive quality of the drugs. We’re engaging the medical community and the patient.”

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