New Jersey's 101.5 Heroin & Drug Abuse Town Hall Offers Guidance, Hope

By Dorri Olds 06/07/16

A special town hall radio series offered New Jersey listeners guidance, inspiration, and information on how to deal with the state's drug epidemic.

New Jersey's 101.5 Heroin & Drug Abuse Town Hall Offers Guidance, Hope

On Thursday, New Jersey’s 101.5 radio station held a live town hall on air to discuss the opiate addiction problem plaguing the state. Hosted by Eric Scott, the guests included former Gov. Jim McGreevey, now an associate at Integrity House, a therapeutic residential community for addiction treatment; NJ Acting Human Services Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly, whose department includes the division of Mental Health and Addiction Services; and recovering addicts Daniel Regan and Carolyn Krug.

The show, sponsored by Carrier Clinic (CC), stressed that the opiate crisis began with doctors over-prescribing pain medication. Because of this, people should be aware of the signs of becoming addicted to these prescription drugs, said Dr. David Buch, chief of addiction medicine at CC. For example, “If you start taking medicines for things other than pain. Sometimes people will take medicines for how they feel emotionally or to help them sleep or for other purposes,” said Buch.

In 2014, 1,305 people died of drug overdose in New Jersey, according to the state Medical Examiners Office. And most of them were heroin or opiate related. According to the CDC, people who use prescription pain medication are 40 times more likely to use heroin than others. Many people turn to heroin when the pills become too expensive. Opiate addiction transcends race, income levels, cities, and suburbia.

It crosses party lines as well. During the radio town hall, McGreevey, a Democrat, said current Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has "done more on this issue ... than any other governor, Democratic or Republican." McGreevey co-chairs the governor's Facing Addictions Task Force.

Another guest, Daniel Regan, had been in and out of treatment centers but kept going back to drugs. His desperate mother finally pulled the then-homeless Regan out of an abandoned hotel and had him arrested. He was sent to a psychiatric facility and then a rehab where he gained his sober footing. But Regan—co-founder of the CFC Loud N Clear aftercare program—says detox and rehabs aren't enough.

“When you go through a treatment center, and you get detoxed, and you feel better, you feel better about life, and you have it all together—then reality starts coming in and what happens is, when you’re in addiction, you have to rationalize your behaviors," said Regan. “You start making excuses [as] to why you’re taking the heroin. It turns into a certain point that when you stub your toe, it’s an excuse to do heroin ... People need the tools to learn to cope with life, instead of running to that comfy blanket.”

Fellow recovering addict and former drug dealer, Carolyn Krug, began drinking alcohol and smoking pot at age 12. By 15, she was taking prescription painkillers and synthetic heroin.

"The thing a lot of people have a problem with [is] they don’t want to admit that because you don’t live in a run-down neighborhood, that this isn’t going to happen. It’s everywhere," said Krug. "It’s going to be your son’s best friend. Or your daughter’s boyfriend’s brother. It can literally be anybody."

Krug said that it wasn’t until recovery that she felt remorse. “One of the people that I used to sell to, and I turned onto heroin, wound up selling opiates,” she said. “And he sold bad heroin that he knew was bad and it killed somebody.”

Check out the 101.5 Town Hall below:

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.