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Massachusetts Battling Opioid Addiction in 2020

by Nick

While the opioid crisis is a national epidemic, Massachusetts has been hit especially hard. The scale of this crisis can be felt in urban, suburban and rural communities throughout the state and is fueled by a surge of illicit fentanyl, heroin and prescription painkillers. Sadly, Massachusetts has one of the top five highest opioid-involved overdose death rates in the country.

Understanding the unique factors that residents of Massachusetts face may give us insight into how to curb the growing tide of opioid addiction throughout the state.

Why the Crisis Has Hit Massachusetts Harder Than Other States

Although the opioid epidemic continues to rob lives throughout the U.S., the crisis is particularly acute in Massachusetts. In 2018, opioids were responsible for nearly 50,000 overdose deaths in the United States. That means in just 20 years, the number of opioid-related fatalities has quintupled. Why does Massachusetts continue to spike above the national average? Some key factors could shed some light on why this crisis continues to increase faster in Massachusetts than in most other states.

The Prevalence of Illicit Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a prescription opioid that can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine. In recent years, fentanyl has become a popular street drug, putting users at a high risk of overdose due to its potency. While fentanyl use has increased throughout the country, it is especially prevalent in Massachusetts and other New England states, accounting for the majority of opioid-related deaths.

New England Economic Hardships

For nearly 50 years, New England’s economy has been hit hard due to the decline in manufacturing and manual labor jobs available in the region. This, along with the 2008 recession, has led to a huge increase in poverty, disability and unemployment rates. Experts believe that these hardships may be contributing to the spike in drug-seeking behaviors.

Drug Trafficking in Massachusetts

Fentanyl, along with other synthetic opioids, is illicitly produced and trafficked across the country. One major northeast drug trafficking route runs through Massachusetts. The prevalence of opioids due to this key trafficking hub makes Massachusetts more vulnerable, with at-risk individuals having greater access to illicit drugs.

Heroin Usage

Overdoses involving heroin have dropped by nearly 5% in Massachusetts in recent years. However, this illicit drug continues to be the second most common underlying cause of opioid-related deaths after fentanyl.

Prescription Opioid Misuse

Although Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of opioid-related deaths, the state has one of the lowest opioid prescribing rates in the country. However, this does not mean that prescription opioids did not play a role in the state’s current opioid crisis. It’s believed that abnormally high prescription rates in the early 2000s may have primed the population. Once legal sources of opioid medications were cut off, at-risk individuals may have turned to illicit heroin or fentanyl to satisfy their cravings.

Contact Health Care Resource Centers in Massachusetts

Although the statistics and facts surrounding the opioid crisis in Massachusetts may be daunting, help is available. HCRC is an opioid addiction treatment center specializing in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and counseling services. Our highly effective programs focus on gently easing physical cravings while also addressing the underlying causes of addiction.

With 11 locations throughout the state of Massachusetts, we invite you to find an HCRC near you. Contact us today to begin your recovery journey.

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