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PDFNJ’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Initiative Places the Focus


Millburn, New Jersey, Dec. 01, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 1, 2022

 College commitment days in December are an exciting time for student-athletes signing on to play college sports, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) is focusing on the health of these student-athletes who have an elevated risk of opioid misuse due to treatment for sports-related injuries. 

The CDC reports that 90 percent of college athletes have reported an injury while competing, and recent studies have indicated a greater risk for youth athletes to become addicted to opioids. For example, male adolescent athletes who participated in competitive sports across a three-year study period had two times greater odds of being prescribed painkillers during the past year and had four times greater odds of medically misusing painkillers than those who did not participate in sports.

“Sports-related injuries are something that many student-athletes will face,” said Angelo Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “It is vital that parents, coaches and students engage in open communication about the risks associated with prescription opioids and be made aware of alternatives when available.”

To reach these student-athletes, PDFNJ and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) have been working together to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription opioids by bringing their Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative to high schools throughout New Jersey.

The program is headlined by former Rutgers and NFL quarterback Ray Lucas, who has spoken openly about his past struggles with opioid addiction. The mission of the events is to educate student-athletes on the risks of prescription opioids, as well as the importance of taking care of themselves physically and mentally.

Lucas, a Harrison native, starred at Rutgers University in the 1990s before enjoying an eight-year career in the NFL. The game took its toll on Lucas, who sustained numerous injuries and underwent more than a dozen surgeries during and after his playing career. He became dependent on prescription opioids, at times taking more than 1,400 pills a month.

“Injuries can occur in high school sports so make sure to ask the questions about what you are being prescribed for pain,” said Lucas. “Talking to your parents, coaches and doctors will ensure that you make smart choices and receive help and support if you need it.”


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Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey: Best known for its statewide substance use prevention advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication. To date, more than $200 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership’s New Jersey campaign, making it the largest public service advertising campaign in New Jersey’s history. Since its inception, the Partnership has garnered 217 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.



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