There is no doubt that New Jersey is faced with a serious drug problem that is only intensifying. At first glance, the Garden State’s statistics can be misleading. In Ocean County, drug-overdose deaths fell from 121 in 2013 to only 86 in 2014. This might suggests drug crime and usage is decreasing. Or, it may be attributed to the increased use of Narcan (Naloxone) as an antidote to drug overdoses.
Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids, including heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. The FDA has even approved a pocket-sized device that can easily be administered by someone with little or no training. If Narcan is taken soon after an overdose, it can counter the deadly effects of opioids within a few minutes. In Ocean County, Narcan was used 129 times since its introduction in the spring of 2014. Of those 129, the victims were revived in 121 instances. That’s a 93.7% success rate of preventing an overdose in Ocean County.
Most of those overdoses involved heroin, which is becoming more and more problematic statewide, especially in Ocean County. Prosecutor Joseph Coronato estimates that close to 80% of all crime in the county is tied to illegal drugs, mainly heroin.
So, what is Ocean County doing to crack down on drug crime? Coronato has made it one of his office’s main priorities. In addition to equipping law-enforcement officers with Narcan to help prevent overdoses, he is enforcing the Strict Liability for Drug-Intended Death law. This law allows prosecutors to charge drug dealers with homicide if the sale directly leads to a death. Officers are not confining their reach to Ocean County alone. They are determined to go wherever the drug source leads them in order to make an arrest.
Coronato states, “No one thing, in and of itself, is going to stem the tide. It’s an active problem…The hope is that, collectively, all of these things we’re doing will make an impact.”