Linden High School students were given valuable information on heroin, prescription drugs and the opioid epidemic that has hit Union County and around New Jersey.
Officer Victoria Smith, community outreach officer from the Union County Sheriff’s Office, spent several days between Jan. 8 and 22 giving informational classes to students on the dangers of drugs.
According to the county Prosecutor’s Office, Union County suffered 102 overdose deaths in 2017. There were also 180 deployments of Narcan, a medicine used to save someone who has overdosed. Twenty-seven of those occurred in Linden.
Officer Smith stressed during her presentation that she wasn’t there to preach nor be judgmental, but just to lay out the truth.
“You guys are going to need this information so when you go out and have to make real-life decisions, one of those decisions might be about drugs,” she told students during her presentations.
Officer Smith explained to students that the impetus behind the program came when a seventh-grader in South Jersey died from an overdose.
“How does a seventh-grader, 13 years old, get his hands on heroin laced with fentanyl?” Smith said. “So we in Union County decided to put a program together to make sure you guys are well informed on the opioid epidemic.”
“These officers face the opioid crisis every day,” said Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi. “So they are able get past the myths and tell our students exactly what the impacts are if they make bad decisions. Heroin and opioid abuse is a threat to our communities, but the best defense is to make sure our students are educated.”
Smith told students what some kinds of opioids are, including illegal drugs like heroin and its far more potent cousin fentanyl, as well as prescription painkillers like codeine, OxyContin and Percocet. She went on to share some of the street terms for the drugs, what they look like, and how they are packaged so students would know them if they see them.
Students also watched two videos, one about the impact on family and friends after a college student died from an overdose, and a dramatization of the desperate and dangerous life of a heroin addict.
“I’m not here to tell you, ‘Don’t do this.’ I’m here to tell you, ‘This is what it is,’ ” Smith said. “You need to make that decision for yourself. You need to see the reality of it.”