States Move to Prevent Opioid Abuse

New Jersey explores new initiatives to combat opioid addiction.

New Jersey Gov Chris Christie recently announced new initiatives to combat opioid addiction in the state, including a ban on knock-off fentanyl and expanding the Recovery Coach Program.

“We are doubling down on our efforts to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction — a pervasive crisis in communities and neighborhoods throughout our nation,” Christie said. “This past summer, I was joined by 45 other governors in a compact through the National Governors Association to carry on this battle, and today we continue New Jersey’s leadership role, in part, by becoming one of the first states to take on the use, sale, and distribution of illicit fentanyl analogs produced by drug trafficking networks.”

The emergency order issued by the Office of the Attorney General bans the manufacturing, distribution, sale, and possession of 7 derivatives of fentanyl, according to a press release from the governor’s office. These derivatives have been added to the list of Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances in New Jersey.

Legally prescribed fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The illegal derivatives of the drug are typically more potent than the prescribed version.

The derivatives are now being sold by dealers, claiming the drugs are heroin, oxycodone, or other prescription drugs. Last year, New Jersey was among 5 states most affected by fentanyl-related deaths, according to the press release.

There have been more than 150 fentanyl-related deaths in the first half of 2016 alone.

“Those responsible for supplying the drugs that caused these deaths will no longer be able to fly under the legal radar in our state,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino who issued the emergency order. “We are empowering our law enforcement agencies with the legal clout to arrest and fully prosecute anyone caught manufacturing, distributing, or possessing these lethal drugs.”

Anyone manufacturing, distributing, selling, or possessing the drugs is subject to a fine up to $25,000, and a 3- to 5-year term in prison. The order will be effective for 270 days, or until a law is adopted to formally classify the narcotics as a Schedule I drug, according to the press release.

The Recovery Coach Program has already been successful in Camden, Essex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Passaic counties in New Jersey. Expanding the program will further support individuals saved from overdoses to seek help from other individuals who can support them and help them receive treatment.

Recovery coaches are in hospital emergency rooms and are typically recovering addicts themselves, and are able to use their experiences to help individuals who need support. Christie also extended the deal with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals to give police departments and first responders access to discounted Naloxone.

Currently, more than 500 police departments are trained and equipped to administer Naloxone. In 2015, the drug was administered 7222 times by police officers and emergency medical services personnel, and has been administered more than 6000 times this year, according to the press release.

Christie also recently signed the National Governors Association’s Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction, which advises governors to increase awareness about opioid addiction, reducing nonmedical use of the drugs, and starting treatment.

“We have made impressive gains in this fight, and we know there is more work to be done,” Christie said in the press release. “With these new initiatives and the alliance of the National Governors Association, we should be able to help more and more people break the cycle of addiction, to reclaim their lives and to improve the lives of all of us dealing with the consequences of opioid addiction in society.”