Opioid treatment now eligible for medical marijuana

Posted: Updated:
CAMDEN -

Gov. Phil Murphy says his administration is adding opioid addiction to the list of eligible illnesses in New Jersey's medical marijuana program.

Murphy announced the change Wednesday at Cooper University Hospital along with other steps aimed at fighting the state's opioid epidemic.

“For the first time in history, more Americans are likely to die from an accidental overdose than an auto accident,” Murphy said.

Health officials say that opioid deaths continued to rise across the state last year.

“In order, this is percentage increase; Salem, Passaic, Cumberland, Mercer and Monmouth, my home county,” the governor said.

Murphy also said the state would be removing a requirement that makes it harder for opioid addicts on Medicaid to get treatments involving medication. He says that the state is doing away with the so-called Medicaid prior-authorization requirement.

He also said Medicaid would be building opioid treatment centers in Camden at Cooper and in Newark at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

RELATED: Study: Medicine advertisements may lead to increase in overdosing 
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Murphy says New Jersey had more than 3,000 overdose deaths in 2018. That's up from more than 2,700 in 2017.

“We also know the reason that overdose deaths continue to climb. It’s because we continue to see more and more illicit fentanyl on our streets. Fentanyl is a super potent synthetic opioid up to 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal says that the crisis is a public health emergency.

The Health Department is launching a data initiative that will better connect substance use clinics with emergency rooms and first responders.

“If somebody overdosed or receives Narcan from the police, that can be pushed to their primary care doctor, to their addiction treatment clinician, whoever it may be, which can be a life or death situation to know exactly what happened to a patient yesterday or before,” Elnahal said.

MORE: CDC: Opioid crisis leads to decline in average life expectancy 
MORE: NJ attorney general sues opioid company over marketing 

Murphy also announced his administration will relaunch television and radio ads promoting the state's addiction assistance hotline.

Former Gov. Chris Christie started the ads in 2017, and was featured prominently in many of them. Murphy canceled the multimillion ad buy in his first week as governor.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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