BERGEN COUNTY - The Governor's Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse released a new study showing an alarming and rising rate of heroin use in New Jersey.
Experts say the addiction usually starts with prescription pain killers and then a transition to heroin because it's cheaper and easier to get.
Bergen County saw 28 heroin-related deaths last year, according to the report. So far this year, there have been 13.
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"Heroin is just spiraling out of control here in New Jersey," says Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.
Molinelli says New Jersey's strict liability law allows him to charge anyone who gives drugs to a person who overdoses, and that doesn't just mean urban drug dealers. "It gives fair warning to individuals that provide a drug to another," he says.
The prosecutor is making a promise to Bergen County parents. If they find heroin in their child's possession, they can turn them into authorities. The child won't be arrested, but will instead be referred to treatment programs.
Treatment and parental awareness are big keys, according to Ellen Elias, who runs the Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources in Hackensack.
"People need to know where they can find help if they need it," Elias says. "Parents need to listen to their inner voice that tells them something is going on at home. Something is not right with their child. And begin to pay attention to it."
Everyone should pay attention to their medicine cabinets, experts say, by properly discarding unused medications at designated waste sites.