On Saturday, an expected 10,000 volunteers will take to the streets to bring life-saving messages to neighbors and the medical communities about the links between prescribed opiates and heroin abuse.

Angelo Valente, executive director of The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day features parents, students, prevention and treatment professionals and concerned residents.

In 2016, about 2,000 people in New Jersey lost their lives from an opioid overdose. Provisional death counts show New Jersey is on pace to have more than 3,000 such deaths in 2018.

Valente said that's partly due to fentanyl, which has been included in the distribution of many of the illicit heroin distributions in the state. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin.

Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day features charity walks, candlelight vigils and songwriting contests. Some football teams will be wearing messages on their helmets.

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About 5,000 volunteers took part in Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day last year in New Jersey.

Valente said the goal is to continue to send a message that there's a direct link between prescribed opiates and heroin abuse.

"It's important for conversations to take place between medical communities and patients, in particular, young children who may be potentially prescribed an opiate," said Valente.

(Drug Free NJ)

He also said that we have to look at alternatives to opiates in addressing acute pain, pointing out there are examples of hospitals that are taking the alternative approach successfully.

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Parents also need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of dependency. If a child is showing any signs, it's crucial that they get help immediately, said Valente.

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He said all New Jersey residents and healthcare professionals can be a part of the solution to the crisis by being well-informed and aware of the dangers of opioids and how they can lead to overdoses.

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To find out about Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day events in your area or to learn how to become a volunteer, go to www.drugfreenj.org or www.drugfreenj.org/knockoutvolunteers.

(Drug Free NJ)

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