Remembering the thousands we have lost to addiction
Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held every Aug. 31 to raise awareness about overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths.
The opioid and heroin epidemic has claimed thousands, with nearly 35,000 people across the country losing their battle with addiction to heroin, fentanyl, prescription medications and imported substances in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Record numbers of deaths have been recorded in many states, including New Jersey. Addiction took the lives of 1,587 state residents in 2015, and officials say those numbers are climbing higher every year.
Drug-related overdoses in South Jersey counties included 85 in Atlantic, 32 in Cape May, 38 in Cumberland and 157 in Ocean in 2015.
Statistics can help researchers and public health officials determine the scope of an epidemic, but they don’t show the depth of loss families and friends experience when they lose someone to an overdose.
The Press asked readers and communities to send us photographs and messages about loved ones lost to the heroin/opioid epidemic — and the response was overwhelming. Katelyn Marie Elwell, 18, of Mays Landing “She was a loving friend to everyone she met and had an infectious laugh.” -Susan Elwell, her mother Christian McCarthy, 45, of Millville Graduated from The College of New Jersey with honors and Widner Law School. Died Aug. 18, 2015 of a heroin overdose. Missed very much by his family. Josanna Feldman-Smith, 34, of Galloway Township
“With a hole in are hearts that that will never heal.Love always, Dad.” -George Smith, her father
Fred Taylor, 46, of Haddon Heights
Unfortunately passed away on Aug, 21 due to heroin. He did save one life by donating his organs.
Hailey Gabrielle Jones, 19, of the Smithville section of Galloway Township Passed away Aug. 13, 2014. Hailey was a beautiful, vibrant girl whose smile and infectious laugh could light up any room. “I miss her more every long day…”
Beau Michael Reilly, 21, of Egg Harbor Township
Always in our hearts.
Ryan B. Beard, 29, of Point Pleasant
Beloved son and grandson Rutgers University Graduate Outstanding baseball player and beloved coach
Jesse Flynn, 22, of Sayreville
“Our son Jesse passed away from a heroin overdose on May 29, 2016. He left behind a daughter only 8 months old and a family who loved him deeply. He was kind, witty and full of dreams! If he had a choice he wouldn’t have chose this disease. He had too much to live for!” -Linda Flynn, his mother
Daniel T. Michael, 30, of the Pomona section of Galloway Township 5-19-86 to 6-21-16 Matthew Mason, 24, of Egg Harbor Township Mason died three years ago from an overdose.
“There is not one day that goes by that my heart does not ache to just hug him one more time! I love and miss you so much!” -Theresa Allmond-Mason, his mother
Thomas John Latham, 24, of Hamilton Township “You are always and forever in our hearts. Your light will always shine! Shine on Tom! We love you!!” -his parents
Mark Aishton, 33, of Galloway Township “The world will never know what these young men could have accomplished. It is not just our loss but the country’s as well.” -Marilyn Aishton, his mother
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015. Stigma is one of the largest barriers to people receiving treatment for addiction. Organizing as a community to remember those we have lost will help break down this barrier.
MILLVILLE: Cumberland County is holding its first local International Overdose Awareness and Remembrance event from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, 3001 Carmel Road, Millville. Families and friends are invited to remember their loved ones and raise awareness in the community.
VENTNOR: Two free Narcan training sessions will be held at 2 and 4 p.m. at the Ventnor Community Library, followed by a remembrance event on the beach from 6 to 8 p.m. behind the Ventnor Community Library on Newport Avenue. Pre-registration is not required for the Narcan trainings, however, there is a maximum of 25 people per session. Organizers ask that you wear white to the remembrance event on the beach to signify hope for others. Attendees should bring a beach chair or blanket. The event will be held in the community center or library if it rains. For more information, call Tracy Smith at 609-445-5121. If you would like to have your loved one commemorated at this event email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opioid and heroin epidemic has claimed thousands, with nearly 35,000 people across the country losing their battle with addiction to heroin, fentanyl, prescription medications and imported substances in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Remembering the thousands we have lost to addiction
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