TRENTON – New Jersey is seeing rampant abuse of heroin and prescription pills, especially by young people, according to investigators who testified before the State Commission of Investigation Wednesday.
Rachel Denno, an SCI investigative agent, said it has become easier for young people to get very pure and cheap heroin, as well as abuse prescription medications which they can simply get from their medicine chest, “unscrupulous doctors” or even the Internet
“To put it bluntly, today’s young Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin users are becoming tomorrow’s heroin junkies,” said SCI Chairman Patrick E. Hobbs, mentioning some of the most well-known prescription drugs that are frequently abused.
Dealing is also an issue, the investigators said.
Some have used legitimate business like used car lots, liquor stores, and nail salons to peddle drugs.
“Drug dealing organizations using businesses as fronts,” said SCI Investigative Agent Edwin Torres.
The prescription drug abuse problem is particularly prevalent in suburban, affluent areas, simply because residents there can afford them. The street value for prescription pills can range between $20 and $80 per pill.
Overdose deaths caused by prescription drugs has surpassed those stemmed from cocaine or heroin, investigators said. Specific numbers were not immediately available.
Denno said between 2002 and 2007, there was been a 30 percent increase in the number of high school students abusing drugs.
Denno attributes the increase to a common misperception that prescription drugs are less harmful than conventional street drugs.
“They think they are safer and think they can’t get addicted,” she said. “They don’t have the same stigma as street drugs.”
Pill abusers commonly crush the pill, snort it, or ingest it.
Agent Torres said drug dealers, whether sole proprietors or members of criminal gangs, scope out areas where police patrols are infrequent, using those areas for drug transactions.
“That area will become well known in the drug world as the go-to place,” he said.