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Former State Prosecutor and Criminal Trial Attorney

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Former Atlantic County Prosecutor

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Parents Beware: Unsuspecting Heroin Use Among Suburban New Jersey Youths on the Rise

To many people, heroin use is seen as an inner-city problem where drug dealers peddle on downtown street corners. However, recent evidence shows heroin use is rising among suburban youths. Due to harsh direct and indirect penalties associated drug charges, it’s important for parents to keep an eye out for suspected activity among their teens.

Between 2010 and 2011, data shows that the number of New Jersey residents between the ages of 18 and 25 admitted to treatment centers for heroin use rose by 12 percent. And, according to officials, this number is higher than they’ve ever seen in past years.

One might presume that a majority of the New Jersey teens were from urban counties like Essex or Camden. But, the highest per capita rate of treatment admissions for youth under 25 was actually Cape May County.

Reasons for the Increase

One potential reason for the heroin market expansion to the suburbs is the low investment risk to drug dealers.

Dealers in larger cities typically charge suburban youth extra to provide heroin to residential areas. And, in many cases, suburbanites have more discretionary cash and are willing to pay the extra fee due to the inability to travel to the city to find the drug.

Further, in the wake of 21st-century technology, selling the drug is easier than ever. Mobile devices that have text messaging as well as Internet platforms like Facebook allow the drug to be more easily accessed. One local prosecutor states that due to the “beauty of the Internet,” drugs can be distributed with the push of a button.

Additionally, overprescribed opiate pain medications could be to blame for the rise. Many more medicine cabinets in today’s households are filled with these prescriptions, allowing teens to access the drugs. Some say this simply provides a gateway for teenagers to use harder drugs like heroin.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t suspect their child of doing heroin, because they do not recognize the drug. It is often sold as a brown powder or chunk in small packets. One mother who found bags of heroin in her son’s room did not question him when he told her they were salt and pepper packets from a diner.

Penalties for Possession of Heroin

It is important for parents of teens facing heroin charges to understand the sharp penalties under the law.

In New Jersey, possession of heroin in New Jersey, also known as possession of a controlled dangerous substance, is a third-degree felony. And, depending on the amount found, a fine of up to $200,000 could be imposed. In addition, a felony conviction can severely impact future educational and employment opportunities for teens approaching the last years of high school.

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