Who uses drugs and alcohol in New Jersey? The answers may surprise you. Substance abuse touches almost all households within the state, including homes located in affluent neighborhoods.
New Jersey has programs made to connect people with the care they need. But statistics suggest that some people with drug abuse issues are not finding the support they need.
Addiction in New Jersey Neighborhoods
Hop in your car and drive across New Jersey, and you may not be able to separate afflicted neighborhoods from their safer counterparts.
Reporters have dug into this question. They say the worst areas for addiction in the state include the following:
- Seaside Heights
- Egg Harbor City
- Atlantic City
- Corbin City
- Loch Arbour
A close examination of this list highlights just how bad addiction is in New Jersey. Cases are not clustered in large, metropolitan areas. Instead, they have infiltrated smaller towns and communities too.
Chances are, you know at least someone in New Jersey who is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem. That person could be your neighbor, your coworker, or your friend. There are no physical boundaries that keep addictions out.
Who Develops an Addiction in New Jersey?
Anyone who abuses substances for long enough could develop brain chemistry changes that lead to addiction. Whether you live in New Jersey or in some other state, that is true.
Data from the New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System from 2019 details who enter treatment programs. They are largely:
- Male. Almost 70 percent of people who seek treatment are men.
- Middle-aged. People ages 35 to 44 make up 24 percent of admissions.
- White. About 60 percent of people who get care are white and non-Hispanic.
- Unemployed. Close to half of everyone who gets care is not in the labor force.
- Living independently. Close to 75 percent of people who get care live independently.
- Single or divorced. More than 80 percent of those who get care are not married.
Make no mistake. Plenty of people with addictions in New Jersey do not enter programs and get the care they need. This data could indicate a layer of those with addictions. They have a problem, and they have the means to address it.
But these statistics indicate that addictions can and do happen to almost anyone who lives in New Jersey. These statistics are replicated throughout the United States.
Most Abused Drugs in New Jersey
Any substance that alters brain chemistry could change brain cells enough to spark an addiction. But some substances are more popular than others among people in New Jersey.
The Office of Forensic Sciences Drug Units within the New Jersey State Police analyzes more than 40,000 drug cases every year. The agency encounters these drugs most frequently:
- Cocaine: This stimulant drug can be smoked, snorted, or injected. Few legitimate medical uses exist.
- Heroin: Poppy plants produce a sticky sap that can, with manipulation, become heroin. This drug is most often injected, but it can also be smoked or snorted.
- Fentanyl: This prescription medication is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, and it can deliver an extreme high. Fentanyl can be injected, ingested via a lozenge, or infused into a patch worn on the skin.
- Marijuana: A hemp plant’s leaves and flowers can be dried and turned into smokable or edible marijuana. This drug is legal in New Jersey but still illegal per federal law.
- Designer drugs: Bath salts, cannabinoids, and other lab-created substances are very similar to their natural counterparts. MDMA, or ecstasy, could be considered a form of designer drug.
- Methamphetamine: Common household products cook down into a powder that can be smoked, injected, or ingested.
- OxyContin: This prescription painkiller is a narcotic, and it is made for acute pain. Abusers strip away time-release coatings and ingest all of the power at once.
Alcohol abuse is also a real problem in New Jersey. While alcohol is legal for people older than 21, drinking to excess is never wise.
Unfortunately in 2017, close to 17 percent of adults admitted to binge drinking. That is similar to the binge drinking rate seen across the country.
Overdose Deaths in New Jersey
Tracking overdose deaths can help highlight the severity of addictions within New Jersey.
People with addictions alter the body’s tolerance. More of a given substance is required to deliver a high that once came with a lower dose. In time, people are taking enough of a substance to hijack the body’s heart rate, breathing rate, and other core functions. Death can follow.
In 2020, New Jersey endured a spike in overdose deaths. More than 250,000 cases were recorded by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner, compared to a little more than 200,000 in 2019.
Of all overdoses in the state in 2018, 70 percent involved opioids. Unfortunately, that number may rise.
Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are incredibly strong, and they enter the market without special labels or warnings. People may think they’re taking the drug they are accustomed to. Instead, they get something much stronger. An overdose is inevitable.
New Jersey State Programs & Resources
Treatment rates across the state vary widely.
In Cape May, for example, close to 2,500 people got treatment for addiction in 2020. In Morris County, by contrast, only about 500 people did so. In some counties, estimated unmet demand for addiction care is higher than 75 percent.
The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services is the authority for programs within the state. The agency updates a directory to help people find the help they need.
Clearly, that agency does not offer enough help to people who need it. Funding for programs is scarce, and some people in the community prefer to punish people with addictions rather than helping them.
Some people in New Jersey step away from state-funded programs and opt for:
- Community-based programs. Local churches, synagogues, and community centers offer support groups. When paired with medication management, some people get the help they need.
- Doctor-referred programs. Admitting a substance abuse problem can prompt your doctor to offer a treatment program your insurance will cover.
- Private programs. When state programs are full, some people enter the private sector to get the help they need.
Regardless of the method, people with addictions need help. Chemical changes in the brain can make recovery difficult, but the proper treatment can help people to adjust, learn new skills, and enter a new way of living.
NJ Towns With Most Heroin Abuse Cases: New Data 2019. (November 2019). Patch.
Substance Abuse Overview Statewide. (October 2020). Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Drug Laboratory. New Jersey State Police.
Complete Health Indicator Report of Alcohol Consumption: Binge Drinking. New Jersey State Health Assessment Data.
Dashboard: Drug-Related Deaths. Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner.
New Jersey: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms. (April 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Treatment Statistics. State of New Jersey Department of Health.
Addiction Treatment Services. State of New Jersey Department of Human Services.