NEW JERSEY (CBS) — The tragic toll of the opioid epidemic leaves families and friends devastated, but the effects don’t end there.
Nick Renn works with 20 funeral homes in South Jersey. He says when he started in the 80’s, overdose deaths were few and far between.
“Now, we’re talking sometimes I may be preparing 10 people a week,” he said.
Often, he says, there’ll be several viewings going on at once for overdose victims. Renn says their ages range from the 20’s into the 60’s, and it could be anyone.
“You see it in the lower economic areas, but you also see it in the higher economic areas,” he said.
Renn says some families are numb, having lived for months or years through their loved one’s addiction, watching them repeatedly cheat death. Others are completely shocked when their child, or their brother, or father, is suddenly gone.
“The drug epidemic has created a whole different climate for the funeral homes,” he said. “I really feel in the near future we’re going to need counselors to help some of these families.”
Renn often recommends families check out Nar-anon, a 12 step program for families and friends of addicts, as well as other counseling programs, because the pain of losing someone never really ends.
“Generally the funeral may be the easier part than when they walk out the door and go home,” he said. “That’s the difficult part.”
In the recent past, the cause of death was kept quiet, but now, says Renn, families are using obituaries to make clear what claimed their loved one’s life, and where help is available.
“They hope if you can save one life, if you can save one family from going through the pain and anguish of addiction, then that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said.