Article on Opiate addiction in the Rutgers Daily Targum
Contributing Writer: Nick Simon
Local Organizations Combat Opiate Abuse
Opiate abuse in New Brunswick is increasing, but local organizations are set on finding solutions rather than fretting about the problem. This past summer, the Elijah’s Promise community soup kitchen and the Rutgers School of Public Health conducted a survey in which almost 120 Elijah’s Promise clients were asked their opinions on opiate and heroin use in New Brunswick. Ajan Sivaramamoorthy, a second-year student at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, assisted in administering the survey and was intrigued by the results. “Out of the 117 clients who participated, 63% stated they noticed an increase in the number of people using opiates in New Brunswick,” said Sivaramamoorthy. While the clients interviewed were only a sample of the New Brunswick population, Sivaramamoorthy said he thought the results of the survey indicated that opiate abuse was increasing, at least on a local scale.
In fact, other studies have confirmed the rise of opiate addiction in New Jersey as well as in the greater United States. In 2014, New Jersey’s heroin death rate was three times that of the national death rate, according to the New Jersey State Department of Criminal Justice. While in the 20 years following 1994, overdose fatalities due to prescription opioid painkillers tripled throughout the country, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As the effects of opiate abuse become more pervasive, an increasing number of people have sought help from institutions that can either connect them with addiction specialists or provide them with direct help.
Elijah’s Promise, specifically its HEART program (Homeless Empowerment Action Response Team), has long offered its services to homeless people throughout Middlesex County. Yvette Molina, Director of Community Services at Elijah’s Promise, said this occasionally includes providing people afflicted by substance abuse with specialized assistance and resources. “If we find somebody in need of substance abuse treatment, we will conduct an assessment and then refer them to the appropriate program applicable to their medical needs or mental health needs,” said Molina. “The long-term goal is to get them stabilized so we can eventually bring them into the community and into permanent housing.” Molina said she thought more New Brunswick residents were beginning to realize how prevalent opiate abuse had recently become. “Either people are related to someone affected by abuse or they know somebody,” said Molina. “Of course, this is something we need to address. We have to keep developing innovative ways to provide people who need help with various services.” Molina said it was important to keep in mind that how addiction and those afflicted by it were perceived by society would play a large role in whether or not major progress was made in curbing abuse rates. “We need to eliminate the stigma surrounding abuse,” said Molina. “Once we do that we’ll be able to start breaking down barriers to help people access the help that they really need.”
Article on Opiate addiction in the Rutgers Daily Targum (Contd)
Another local organization attempting to make headway against opiate addiction is the Rutgers Brain Health Institute (BHI). The BHI is an association of over 250 principal investigators with neuroscience laboratories based throughout various campuses of Rutgers University and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. According to Dr. Gary Aston-Jones, Director of the Brain Health Institute, the BHI’s foremost objective is translational neuroscience, which he defined as “using basic neuroscience principles to develop new therapeutics for brain disorders.” Aston-Jones said the BHI was currently in the process of organizing a new addiction research center at Rutgers. “This center will address the opiate addiction problem on a comprehensive scale,” said Aston-Jones. “Research will extend from basic neuroscience, such as the cellular, molecular, and genetic processes that can influence addiction, all the way to policy and legislative issues that might help prevent or address addiction problems.” Much like Molina, Aston-Jones said people should endeavor to see addiction for what it really is. “We need to recognize it as a disease that can be treated, rather than a moral failing,” he said. “It’s a transition that I think is happening in the country, by and large, but it hasn’t happened fully yet.”
Both Molina and Aston-Jones said they would like to encourage students to get involved in the effort to combat substance abuse. Molina said students should research local non-profits and addiction support agencies, and Aston-Jones said students intrigued by this topic should visit the BHI website: bhi.rbhs.rutgers.edu.
Rutgers-Newark Faculty Wins Excellence in Research Award
Laszlo Zaborszky, MD,PhD,DSc, Distinguished Professor & Editor-in-Chief of Brain Structure & Function won the 2015-2016 "Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research" in recognition of his elegant experimental work on the anatomical and functional organization of the basal forebrain, which has led to fundamental insights into the functional organization of the central nervous system.
Robin Davis, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, has agreed to serve as Associate Director of the BHI
Robin was instrumental in the initial planning for the BHI, and as Associate Director she will continue to provide advice on activities and strategies of the BHI.
Eldo Kuzhikandathil, PhD, has joined the BHI as Managing Director
Eldo was Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience at New Jersey Medical School. Eldo will be instrumental in helping to manage many BHI initiatives including pilot grant programs, the monthly BHI seminar series, the Newark-New Brunswick postdoc exchange seminar series, faculty recruiting, and many other activities.
BHI Advisory Board Established
We have established an Advisory Board for the BHI. This board will meet quarterly and provide advice on all BHI activities. The members can be found under About Us on this website.
Announcing a new endowed chair in BHI
The Klein Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Research, generously funded by Rutgers alumnus the Hon. Herbert Klein and his wife Jacqueline Klein.
The First Annual BHI Symposium is scheduled for October 26 2015 at the Duncan Family Sky room at St. Peter’s University, Jersey City
Pat Levitt, PhD, University of Southern California, will be the keynote speaker, along with other Rutgers speakers and poster presenters.