Almost no Morristown resident plans to become a heroin addict. While some adults with criminal backgrounds may have looked up to gangsters, bullies or petty criminals in their neighborhood as childhood role models, addicts are rarely idolized. Addiction, particularly to heroin, is an impaired, stigmatized life, because it is not a crime of malice or power: It is an illness.
It often starts innocently enough, with a prescription from a New Jersey doctor for a legitimate pain condition or injury. New Providence’s Deputy Chief of Police reports that “almost all” of the many arrested heroin addicts he had spoken with last year, were originally addicted to prescription opiates. When the prescription runs out, the addiction remains. Addicts often discover quickly that while painkillers are prohibitively expensive on the street, heroin is cheap, pure and plentiful in New Jersey. In fact, heroin is so readily available in the Garden State that users generally report being able to score it within an hour.
Many factors combine to make New Jersey one of the most dangerous states in the U.S. for heroin addiction, as well as overdose deaths. The increased purity means that it can be snorted without the perceived stigma of intravenous drug use. However, eventually most users do end up injecting. The increased purity today also leads to increased addictive potential.
Heroin is also extremely cheap in New Jersey today. Heroin is being sold in many cities in New Jersey for roughly $5 a fold (dosage unit). One Newtown addiction center’s founder reports that with today’s cheap prices, it’s not uncommon to see 50 bag-a-day habits. And throughout New Jersey, police report an increase in robberies, which may be a reflection of drug addicts stealing to support their habits.
Opiate addiction is an illness, requiring medical treatment. It often begins with a legitimate medical prescription for a pain condition, and spirals out of control because adequate counseling and withdrawal support is not provided. In New Jersey, it is all too easy to become seriously and rapidly addicted to heroin. It is cheap, plentiful and pure, even in the suburbs. If someone is charged with drug possession or other drug-related crimes, a criminal defense attorney can help advocate for a treatment-based approach. Many former heroin addicts go on to have successful lives, but this is a lot easier through rehabilitation than by serving a long prison sentence.