Heroin use is has reached epidemic proportions. Its abuse is not just an urban problem that happens somewhere else, or to someone else.
Those were some of the sobering messages delivered to parents at Manasquan High School’s “Back To School” night in a short presentation by Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.
The presentation was the first that Gramiccioni has made to parents of high school aged children this year. Talks are in the works with other county high schools and a version is being tailored to the students themselves, he said.
But Gramiccioni said the message was important to get out to parents, in part to debunk widely held myths that heroin use is some other worldly thing that happens on television or in urban areas, and in part to arm parents with cold hard facts about the proliferation and danger the drug poses in Monmouth County.
“It is enslaving our kids,’’ Gramiccioni said. “There’s no two ways about it.’’
The presentation was stark:
· There have been 10 homicides in Monmouth County so far this year, but 37 have died from heroin overdose.
· In the Freehold Regional High School District, 721 people -- students and non-students alike -- have sought professional help for heroin addiction and 164 in the various sending districts that make up Manasquan High School.
· 80 percent of people begin using heroin with friends, but 80 percent of addicts who overdose are found alone.
“This is why we need to change the conversation,’’ Gramiccioni said.
The purity of today’s heroin makes it a more dangerous drug than it was 20 years ago. Purity levels of the available heroin in New Jersey are nearly double the national average, with area heroin sometimes reaching purity in excess of 90 percent.
That’s compared to the heroin of 20 years ago that had purity levels in the single digits, Gramiccioni said.
“This isn’t the same heroin that you might have heard about when you were growing up 20-25 years ago,” Gramiccioni said.
But the presentation wasn’t all fire and brimstone.
Of those kids in a recent study who stayed drug free, most said they did so because they did not want to disappoint their parents, Gramiccioni said.
“That’s a strong message to us as parents about talking to your kids,” Gramiccioni said. “Please communicate with your children.’’