Map of New Jersey Overdose Deaths Lays Out Dire Statistics

By Keri Blakinger 10/02/17

In 2016, almost 2,000 lives were lost to opioid overdoses in the state.

map of New Jersey

The numbers are in—and they’re not good. 

Nearly 2,000 people in New Jersey died of opioid overdoses in 2016, according to preliminary data reported by NJ Advance Media. The skyrocketing year-end death toll from heroin is more than twice what it was in 2013, while the fentanyl-related death numbers are up 2,000% in the past four years.

"I don't think the American people can sit by and tolerate this level of death for much longer," Gov. Chris Christie told the New Jersey news outlet earlier this year.


Chart via

The grim 1,901-person opioid death toll contributed to an estimated overall drug fatality record of somewhere between 2,090 and 2,250. Despite the sharp increase in fentanyl deaths, heroin is still leading the way as the state’s deadliest drug. State data show that 1,297 Garden Staters died of heroin overdoses last year, while 878 died from fentanyl. Those numbers were up from 918 for heroin and 417 from fentanyl a year earlier.

Map via

And NJ Advance Media data journalist Stephen Stirling—who talked to The Fix in 2016 about his brilliant "Herointown" project—took the time to plot all 1,901 of those deaths on a map to show where people are dying and why. Not surprisingly, the state’s most heavily populated urban centers near Philly and New York are pocked with clusters of red dots. But the Jersey Shore has also been hit hard. 

Chart via

The interactive map also shows ages, and disproportionately it’s millennials who are dying.

But it’s not just opioids wreaking havoc on the state; cocaine fatalities are on the upswing as well, with 188 deaths in 2016 than 2014.

And so far, 2017 is on track to see a similar—if not worse—scale of tragedy, the paper reported.

"There's no easy fix to the epidemic of opiate addiction, which means we must continually re-dedicate ourselves to the hard work of fighting it on every front," Attorney General Christopher Porrino said over the summer, when the state released its first six months of 2016 numbers.

To put the overdose problem in perspective, the 2016 year-end opioid totals clocked in at more than twice the number of Garden State deaths in 9/11 and a few dozen more than the total fatalities in Hurricane Katrina. It’s more than the population of 74 entire towns in New Jersey and more than two times the population of the world’s smallest country.

And that’s all in line with dire national trends.

"The deaths in 2016 (nationally) are going to be about 64,000," Christie said over the summer. "Every three weeks we have a 9/11 due to drug overdoses in this country. Are you really willing to put up with that level of death, to have 17 9/11s a year? I'm not."   

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.