How New Jersey is Combating the Opioid Crisis

Governor Chris Christie’s pledge to combat opioid deaths includes 5-day limit on initial pain killer prescriptions, access to treatment and opioid disposal sites.

Professional Photo of New Jersey Governor Chris ChristieNew Jersey has beefed up its battle against opioid addiction with measures like five-day limits on initial prescriptions for pain killers, providing six months of treatment to addicts, regardless of their ability to afford treatment, and providing opioid disposal sites for its citizens.

Opioids are drugs that stimulate opioid receptors, or nerve endings in the brain that can lessen pain and stress while creating a euphoric mood, or “high.” Opioids can be prescribed for pain control after accidents or surgery or be found in street drugs, like heroin. The base ingredient in opioids is opium, a substance found in poppy seeds. Opioids can be highly addictive and can also lead to death when taken in excess.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared opioid addiction an emergency in 2015, when rates of death from the drugs had increased by 214 percent since 2010. Deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid fifty times stronger than heroin, had increased eight fold from 2013 to 2015.

“Nearly 1,600 people lost their lives to drugs in New Jersey in 2015. That is more than four times the number of murders in New Jersey in 2015,” Christie said in his recent State of the State address to the state legislature. “That is three times the number of people that were killed in car accidents in 2015.”

New Jersey’s prescription limit measure has reduced the allowed prescription from 30 days to five, and doctors will be allowed to prescribe additional medications if pain has not subsided.

However, according to Mishael Azam, chief operating officer and senior manager for Legislative Affairs for the Medical Society of New Jersey, the bill does not account for “ individual patient circumstances, like medication tolerance or access to insurance, transportation or alternative treatments.”

“This is especially cruel given that over 70 percent of abuse comes from diversion not from patient misuse,” Azam said in the statement.

Gov. Christie will veto any bills that increase the duration of prescriptions, reports NJ Advance Media.

The governor has also ordered 900 additional beds be provided to the state’s mental health and addiction recovery facilities, while also increasing the amount doctors and nurses will be reimbursed for providing such treatment. This is in addition to a measure the state legislature passed that requires six months of treatment be provided by health insurers in the state at no additional cost.

Most recently, Christie a announced a drug disposal program that would allow citizens to dispose of their opioid medication and police stations and pharmacies, no questions asked. The drop-off information is provided on ReachNJ.gov, the state’s site for information on addiction and resources for treatment.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said when unveiling the measure at a police station in Toms River, New Jersey.

The governor has recently been appointed by US president Donald Trump to head a commission on battling opioid addiction on a national level. He expects to release a report on his findings by October, NJ Advance Media reports.

Sources:
CDC, “Drug Overdose Death Data”
https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html
CNN, “Christie will advise Trump panel on opioid addiction”
http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/29/health/christie-opioid-trump-appointment/
National Safety Council, “Opioid painkillers: How they work and why they can be risky”
http://www.nsc.org/RxDrugOverdoseDocuments/opioid-painkillers-how-they-work-and-why-they-are-risky.pdf
NIH, “Opioids”
https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
NJ.com, “Christie in final N.J. budget address: Let’s use lottery money to help save pensions”
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/christie_unveils_his_last_nj_budget.html
NJ.com, “Christie plan to limit painkillers ‘cruel,’ N.J. doctors say”
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/01/nj_doctor_group_opposes_christie_plan_to_limit_pai.html
NJ.com, “Christie signs bill limiting painkiller prescriptions to five days”
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/bill_limitig_painkiller_prescription_on_christies.html
NJ.com, “Christie to add nearly 900 beds in N.J. to treat drug addiction, mental illness”
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/christie_to_add_nearly_900_beds_for_addiction_ment.html
NJ.com, “From addiction to pensions: 10 things to know about Christie’s 2017 State of the State”
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/01/10_things_to_know_about_christies_2017_state_of_the.html#incart_river_index
NJ.com, “Governor Christie Announces Expanded ReachNJ Information”
http://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/552017/approved/20170426c.html
NJ.com, “N.J. Senate votes to curb prescriptions of opioid painkillers”
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/nj_senate_votes_to_curb_prescriptions_of_opioid_pa.html
NJ.com, “Overdose deaths skyrocket in N.J. as opioid epidemic proves unassailable”
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2016/12/overdose_deaths_skyrocket_in_nj_as_opioid_epidemic_continues_its_boom.html
Physiological Reviews, “Reward Processing by the Opioid System in the Brain”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482114/
US News and Word Report, “Christie Adds Drug Disposal Tool to Anti-Opioid Campaign”
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-jersey/articles/2017-04-26/christie-to-mark-prescription-drug-disposal-event

Written by: Neha Kashyap | Medically reviewed by: Dr. Robert Carlson, M.D.