International Overdose Awareness Day

ASBURY PARK, NJ – Drug overdose is an increasing issue across the nation and particularly in New Jersey where heroin drug overdose death is three times the national average. “Using substances that are legal, illegal or prescribed, all carry potential consequences. However, making drugs illegal by policy adds risks due to the non-regulation of the drugs” said Randy Thompson, CEO of Help Not Handcuffs.

The added prohibition risk of unknown purity and adulterants in heroin can be seen clearly in the exponential increase in fentanyl related deaths. In one year 2013 – 2014 illicit fentanyl deaths rose 115% in Florida and 526% in Ohio. New Jersey’s Fentanyl deaths rose more than 300% in that same time period. Data from the first six months of 2015 shows it has already surpassed the total number of fentanyl deaths from all of 2014 according to the Office of the State Medical Examiner.

“What is critical to understand is that the arrest and treatment – centric approach that policy makers hail as the solution to the failed “War on Drugs” is causing more harm than good. This is evidenced by drug overdose deaths being the 3rd leading cause of death in NJ’s drug treatment facilities (according to the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services) and the expansion of drug possession arrests in NJ (32,000 arrests in 2011 to 39,500 arrests in 2014)” Thompson said. Another example of prohibition failing is the NJ legislative ban on synthetic marijuana in 2013. By 2015 emergency room visits for synthetic marijuana were up 200% giving NJ the 18th highest per capita incidence rate.

Help Not Handcuffs calls on policymakers to recognize the harm caused by drug prohibition and consider some form of regulation such as the successful Heroin Assisted Treatment programs, which have proven successful over several decades by reducing participants use of illegal heroin and improving health outcomes. These programs remove the prohibition created risk of unknown purity and unknown adulterants as well as take drug use off the streets and allow it in a medicalized environment.

Help Not Handcuffs also urges lawmakers to abandon their commitment to expanding the failed “War on Drugs” by decriminalizing drug use, considering regulation and legalization where factually supported and funding a full range of harm reduction measures including allowing consumption rooms and supervised injection facilities which have been successful in attaining a ZERO drug overdose rate from participants (Vancouver’s Insite).