Although addiction has been an ever-present scourge on society for at least a century, the past few decades have seen rates of substance abuse and addiction skyrocket, both nationally and globally. Over the years, the most common substance to which addicts become dependent changes at irregular intervals. Since OxyContin became one of the most widely prescribed painkillers in the late 1990s, more and more people are recreationally abusing the dangerous and highly addictive drug, leading to heretofore unseen levels of dependency and addiction treatment.
In response to the spike in abuse of opiate painkillers, there were some policy changes in the production mandates regarding how controlled substances are manufactured, which led to pharmaceutical companies modifying the formulas of drugs like OxyContin to make them more resistant to abuse. Unfortunately, there were already so many people who were addicted to OxyContin and other painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and others, many individuals who had become dependent on pain medication switched to a more widely available and less expensive alternative in heroin. Since then, heroin addiction rates—as well as rates of heroin-related overdose and deaths—have increased at an alarming and exponential rate.
With rates of addiction to heroin and other chemical substances higher than ever, states all over the US are taking it upon themselves to find ways to combat continually rising addiction rates. Like most other states, Massachusetts has been hit hard by the recent drug epidemic with heroin being the most commonly abused drug by a wide margin. In fact, last year over a four-month period there were an astounding 185 deaths that occurred as a result of heroin overdose, prompting former Governor Deval Patrick to declare a public health emergency and look for more effective ways to curb the deadly effects of addiction to heroin and other substances to residents of Massachusetts.
Substance Abuse and Massachusetts Drug Addiction
According to former Gov. Deval Patrick, between 2000 and 2012 rates of unintentional overdose on heroin rose by 90 percent in the state of Massachusetts. Moreover, the heroin epidemic has continued to climb since then, which has made heroin a significant threat to public health and the well-being of Massachusetts residents. Reports show that heroin addiction accounts for almost half of all cases of addiction that are treated in rehabilitation facilities throughout the state of Massachusetts, which is
Reports show that heroin addiction accounts for almost half of all cases of addiction that are treated in rehabilitation facilities throughout the state of Massachusetts, which is more than double the frequency of alcoholism, the second-most common form of dependency seen in treatment centers. Data from 2011 also shows that the eastern region of Massachusetts—where it’s estimated that someone dies from a drug overdose every eight days or less—has the highest incidence of emergency room visits pertaining to illicit drugs than any other region in the United States with heroin being a large part of the problem.
Studies have often tried to find the source of Massachusetts’ high addiction rates in order to determine root problems that can be solved. Some of suggested that high rates of Massachusetts drug addiction, particularly heroine and opioids, can be attributed to doctors being all too willing to overprescribe painkillers for conditions or procedures for which such strong medications were not necessary. Not only does this make it more likely for the patients to become chemically dependent, but it makes these dangerous drugs more accessible to family members in the same household, friends, and others who can frequently find such substances in medicine cabinets.
Moreover, there’s high incidence of diversion of opiate prescriptions, referring to the tendency for individuals to sell their medications on the street due to the high street value that most opiates carry. It’s also been said that the frequency with which doctors prescribe opiates has resulted in a pervasive medical culture that believes no patient should have to endure any amount of pain, no matter how minimal or small.
Unfortunately, the implications of overprescribing, diversion, and the increasing frequency with which residents of Massachusetts are depending on street drugs are more far-reaching than it would appear on the surface. According to reports, roughly 17.5 infants out of every 1,000 born in the state of Massachusetts are found to have opiates in their system, which is a rate that is triple the national average. There’s even evidence that substance abuse is starting at younger and younger ages with increasing rates of abuse and dependency of mind-altering substances among
There’s even evidence that substance abuse is starting at younger and younger ages with increasing rates of abuse and dependency of mind-altering substances among Massachusetts teens. Additionally, these high rates of addiction are causing not only increasing instances of overdose and death but also spikes in criminal behavior throughout the state, which virtually causes even non-addicts to suffer the consequences of addiction as the victims of addicts’ crimes.
A New Plan to Fight the Epidemic
There are many addiction treatment centers throughout the state of Massachusetts where individuals suffering from addiction to heroin or other substances can receive treatment to overcome their chemical dependencies. However, many addicts avoid addiction treatments at all cost, and although there are involuntary commitment procedures in some states there are many instances when addicts cannot be forced into treatment. With rates of substance abuse and addiction higher than ever and still on the rise, heroin and other substances have been a major political problem for Massachusetts as well as virtually every other state, leaving officials with no choice but to confront the problem head-on by developing a proactive plan for combating the ongoing drug epidemic.
In an effort to confront the drug epidemic directly, current Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has created a proactive plan that involves attacking the issue from multiple directions. The plan includes reporting overdoses to the state Department of Health, requiring doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing controlled substances, incorporating preventative addiction education into health services and education systems, developing more comprehensive inpatient treatments including for young adults, and offering addiction treatment rather than prison sentences for nonviolent criminal offenders who suffer from addiction.
This is in addition to former Governor Patrick’s initiatives, which included pushing for legalization of the super-potent opiate painkiller Zohydro and having emergency first-responders carry Narcan to treat heroin and opiate overdose. While it’s estimated that these efforts will address the growing addiction rates on many levels, it remains to be seen whether Baker’s plan will make as much of a difference as is needed or whether the plan will require more actionable strategies.
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to heroin or another dangerous substance and would like to learn about treatment options, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. We have experienced, caring addiction specialists available, offering free consultations in order to match those in need with the rehabilitation services that best address each individual’s recovery needs. A healthy, sober life is just a phone call away.