Lutz: When will the heroin epidemic stop?

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People in New Jersey are making the unfortunate sacrifice of trading their body for more than a fair share of problems.

According to a New Jersey government website, drug-related studies from 2016 in Gloucester County show that, by a wide margin, heroin was the drug of choice. Among other sources, this research is based on data acquired from New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

In 2016, 50 percent [1,484] of people in the county preferred heroin as their substance of choice. The next closest one was alcohol, which rounded out to 21 percent [621 people]. From men and women ages 18-24, 381 people sought help at some point for heroin, 221 of which were men. Marijuana, the second highest figure, amounted to 90 people — a 76.3 percent difference.

Over four years ago, on Sept. 14 2013, my 16-year-old half sister, Kaitlyn, died of a heroin overdose. Shock, horror, sadness, pain.. What else is there to expect from someone who loses someone so close to them in that fashion? Not just for me and my family, but for anyone.

A straightforward way to look at the epidemic throughout the country, not just in New Jersey, is that a drug addiction of any kind is a roadblock to success. With all the staggering heroin figures and amount of users over the past several decades, including more recently, the numbers are adding up more rapidly.

Here’s another way to break it down. Per a quote from the 1993 film “A Bronx Tale,” “The saddest thing in life is a waste of talent.” You could be someone with the brilliance of Albert Einstein, the artistic ability of Vincent Van Gogh, or someone with the dexterity of the dramatic works like Walt Whitman and not cultivate that talent.

To further elaborate on the quote from the movie, “You could have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t do the right thing, then nothing happens.” Long story short, a huge flaw and bad life experience like an addiction can extremely hinder your ability to fulfill your dreams.

Perhaps a fair amount of people attribute heroin addictions to genetics, but it comes down to putting away the needles and making the right choices, not making excuses. Not destroying your body, your potential and your future.

According to a NJ.com report in August 2016, the percentage of parents with heroin babies have skyrocketed among the New Jersey population. New Jersey Advanced Media revealed that out of every 50 babies born in 2014 in New Jersey were born with NAS. NAS is defined as a neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is one that’s a byproduct of a mother who used heroin during their pregnancy.

Three and a half years ago, 638 babies in America were born with that syndrome. In other words, 638 mothers, even if they never committed a crime beforehand, still committed a crime by “robbing” their future baby of having a healthy birth.

The epidemic is not just in the now, but will definitely continue more and more into the future, and New Jersey needs to make a bigger and better effort in order to counter it as best as possible.

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