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Opioid Crisis Continues; Massachusetts Leads Successful Treatment Efforts

May 24, 2018

During the first three months of 2018 the Massachusetts death rate from opioid use has declined by 5 percent (vs. 2017) per the state’s Department of Public Health. For the same time, 30% fewer opioid painkiller prescriptions were issued versus the rate in 2015. This continues a positive trend in the most program-intensive state in the US: in Massachusetts, 2017 was the first year to show a year-from-year decline in opioid-related deaths (2,016 lives lost) in the state since the opioid crisis began in 2012.

The example of Massachusetts is important because no other state has thrown as many resources into curtailing opioid use through prevention and the timely provision of treatment. Most of the rest of the US has no similar public-health commitment, so every year more Americans are dying of overdoses. While Congress has finally passed a bill to fund programs, they are implemented at the state level, and most states have no effective policy for addressing the need.

Fentanyl, in its illegal synthetic version, remains the main killer, present in 85% of the overdose deaths in which toxicological tests were administered. The medical community, however, has finally learned its lesson: deaths attributed to opioid-based prescription medications dropped to 16% in 2017 versus 26% in 2014.

What has your state done about implementing prevention and treatment programs during the ongoing opioid-use crisis? Do you see clients who are struggling with this addiction? What more might be done in your community? Lives are at stake.

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