The Garden State seems to have become fertile ground for prescription medication addiction over the past several years. Dr. Roger Mitchell, the New Jersey state assistant medical examiner, revealed that in both 2011 and 2012, prescription drugs were responsible for over 700 deaths in New Jersey. In contrast, superstorm Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Jersey Shore last year, only resulted in 75 fatalities.
Mitchell, speaking earlier this month at a symposium for medical professionals at the Hackensack University Medical Center, went into further detail about the death toll brought on by prescription drug abuse, mentioning that oxycodone, the popular opioid painkiller, claims almost as many lives annually as heroin. Part of the issue seems to stem from the fact that the majority of the doctors in New Jersey have not joined the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, a database that tracks all instances of prescriptions for controlled or dangerous substances. The PMP’s data could be used to detect patterns of abuse in individual patients, or help identify doctors who are too liberal in handing out prescriptions. Unfortunately, participation in the PMP is voluntary, and at present only about 10% of New Jersey’s eligible doctors are enrolled.