Rise in Heroin Use Reaches a Crisis Point in Ocean County

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

This recovering heroin addict wants to remain anonymous.

“That’s where I started, the prescriptions. Then it just escalates so fast.”

She says that’s how many people get hooked on heroin.

“It ruined my life. I lost everything in like a year, everything. It progresses real fast. That’s all you think about. How are you going to get it? Where are you going to get the money to get it? It completely controls your whole entire life,” said one recovering addict.

We spoke to the 26-year-old mother of three at a treatment facility in Toms River. She says she’s drug free now, but it’s a much different situation for several of her friends.

“A lot of people that I went to high school with, a lot of people that I used to use with are now dead so it’s just very sad. I actually went to a funeral last night.”

“Last year there was 53 overdoses in county total. Now we’re up to 60 and we’re not half way through the year,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato. “The heroin overdoses were predominantly between the ages of 20 to 26.”

Those statistics have prompted Coronato to make it his mission to go after drug dealers. A handful of the 19 people arrested recently were found in a home on a quiet suburban street in Bayville where authorities found enough heroin to produce 4,000 dosage units.

“It’s so inexpensive, meaning that you can get a hit for $5. And a lot of the individuals I think that have either overdosed or are now addicted to it originally started with pain medication,” Coronato said.

Roberto Flecha runs two drug treatment facilities that are part of Seashore Family Services of New Jersey. He’s also seen an increase in the number of addicts using heroin. Additional staff was needed to meet the demand.

“Part of the issue again is the capacity problems,” Flecha said.

Flecha says treatment can work. One recovering addict says she’s proof.

“They have to want to do it in their own. They have to go through everything possible to find it somewhere in them to get clean. That’s really it. Sorry, I’m choking up,” she said.

Authorities say just arresting drug dealers won’t solve this problem, which is why the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office will be launching an outreach campaign at schools across the county in the fall to educate students and parents about the dangers of drugs like heroin.