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Opioid Deaths Rising in Massachusetts

by Nick

Massachusetts has one of the highest overdose death rates in the country. Despite progress in recent years, 2020 saw a rise in overdose deaths in New England.

Opioid-Related Deaths Increased Statewide in 2020

The latest report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that overdose deaths in the state rose by 5% in 2020. The report, which the department released in May 2021, noted that the overdose death rate among Black non-Hispanic men saw the biggest increase in 2020.

In previous years, the state’s overdose rate experienced a decline. Numbers fell between 2016 and 2018 before plateauing in 2019. In 2020, opioid-related overdose deaths increased, with the Department of Public Health stating there were 2,104 confirmed and estimated overdose deaths — the highest number in the state’s history.

While Massachusetts hit a new peak in overdose deaths, the 5% increase was lower than the rates in many other states. The U.S. saw a 29% surge in overdose deaths nationwide in 2020, with many states witnessing a double-digit increase.

Why Are Opioid Deaths Rising in Massachusetts?

The COVID-19 pandemic plays a major part in the state’s rising overdose death rate. The pandemic poses serious challenges to public health, including mental health and harm reduction efforts. COVID-19 restrictions encourage isolation, one of the biggest factors in opioid misuse and overdoses. Some people with opioid use disorders may not seek treatment out of fear of catching COVID-19. Parents can’t leave their kids home alone to attend treatment programs or meetings.

The pandemic has also increased the economic strain on many individuals and families. Like the rest of the country, the New England economy has struggled with the challenges of 2020. Unemployment, financial stress and poverty are all factors that can lead to opioid addiction and overdoses.

Fentanyl, a popular street drug with a high risk of overdose due to its potency, continues to harm Massachusetts communities. The commonwealth’s report noted that fentanyl was present in 92% of overdose deaths last year.

Expanded Harm Reduction Efforts

The Massachusetts Department of Health also described the state’s efforts to combat the rising number of opioid-related deaths. Since March 2020, the state has distributed 110,000 naloxone kits to community health centers and programs around the state, including prisons, jails and syringe service programs (SSPs). Many patients are now authorized for take-home methadone prescriptions.

The Public Health Department has sought to lower barriers to care, especially for disproportionately affected communities. Opioid addiction treatment services have expanded their online services and access to telehealth. Some facilities have programs that accept COVID-positive patients.

Receive Opioid Addiction Treatment From Health Care Resource Centers

Vulnerable populations across Massachusetts still face barriers when seeking treatment for opioid use disorder. HCRC is an opioid addiction treatment center specializing in medication-assisted treatment and substance use counseling. Our programs are comprehensive and effective, and we’ve helped thousands of opioid patients on their road to recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid use disorder, reach out today. Learn more about our several addiction treatment centers throughout Massachusetts. Get in touch with one of our dedicated HCRC representatives to find a program close to you.

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