Local officials had a simple message for Middletown families Tuesday night: heroin kills.
Use of the drug is a growing danger throughout New Jersey—including Middletown—and leaders urged parents to play an active role in keeping their children safe.
“People just think ‘this isn’t going to happen to me, this isn’t going to happen to my kid,’” said Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni at the "Heroin Kills" program at High School North’s auditorium.
But, it does.
In the past year, heroin deaths of those between the ages of 18-25 rose by 24 percent in New Jersey, according to officials. Gramiccioni said he expects Monmouth County’s heroin-related deaths to be “well over” 70 in 2013—in line with the numbers from 2011 and 2012—once the final tally is compiled.
“That’s a staggering number,” he said.
School, county and municipal officials are working together to raise awareness by involving children and their parents in the battle against drug use.
“An effort like this, to fill this auditorium, can’t happen without the efforts of a lot of people,” said Superintendent William George. He thanked the school board, prosecutor’s office, students and staff for filling nearly every seat in the high school auditorium.
Heroin arrests in Middletown saw a spike between 2010 and 2011, nearly doubling from 60 to 115, according to Detective Lt. Stephen Dollinger. In 2013, 106 such arrests were made.
“We’ve seen an increase over the years in Middletown,” he said. “It’s definitely a problem in Middletown.”
Monmouth County’s close proximity to areas with pure heroin—for example, Newark has a 46 percent purity level, higher than the national average of 31 percent—means local users are getting dangerous and sometimes deadly highs, Gramiccioni said.
Heroin users often start off hooked on prescription pills, which could cost upwards of $60 each on the streets. They’re likely to turn to heroin when pill supplies dry up, since a bag the former can be found for about $5 and last an entire day or longer, the prosecutor said.
Gramiccioni urged parents to get involved and speak with their children about the dangers of drug use. He cited a survey that found the top reason kids stay away from drugs is because they don’t want to disappoint their parents.
“Communication is the most successful tool for parents,” he said.