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slides: Massachusetts Drug Overdose Deaths Up 47% Since 1999

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

 

Drug overdose fatalities are up 47% in MA since 1999.

Drug overdose deaths in Massachusetts have climbed 47% since 1999, according to a report recently released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). The Bay State is now ranked 32nd out of 50 states in annual drug overdose deaths, with nearly 11 of every 100,000 deaths resulting from an overdose. The majority of these deaths were the result of prescription drug abuse.

"Prescription drugs can be a miracle for many, but misuse can have dire consequences. The rapid rise of abuse requires nothing short of a full-scale response starting with prevention and education all the way through to expanding and modernizing treatment," said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "There are many promising signs that we can turn this around, but it requires urgent action."

The report Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic was published by TFAH and includes data from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. TFAH is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.” It is funded by individual donations and foundation support. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded this particular report.

A Local Perspective

Derek Brindisi, Director of the City of Worcester’s Division of Public Health (WDPH), said studies in Central Massachusetts have revealed similar findings.

A 2011 Worcester Regional Youth Health Survey, which gathered data from eight school districts in Central Massachusetts, found prescription drug use to be steadily increasing among students in the 9th to 12th grade. 10.5% of 9th graders surveyed reported abusing prescription drugs, as did 13.2% of 10th graders, 15.1% of 11th graders, and 18.6% of 12th graders.

Signs of Progress

11 of every 100,000 deaths in MA result from a drug overdose.

Despite the discouraging numbers, the report pointed out that Massachusetts already employs nine of TFAH’s ten recommended strategies to help curb prescription drug abuse.

Massachusetts currently has an active prescription drug-monitoring program, and requires all prescribers to participate. It also has a so-called drug shopping law, which forbids patients from withholding information about prior prescriptions from current healthcare providers. Prescribers are also required to be educated in controlled substances.

Prescribers are also required to physically examine patients or to have a bona-fide patient-physician relationship before prescribing controlled substances. When picking up such a substance at a pharmacy, patients are required to show a valid form of ID.

In addition to these legal requirements, Massachusetts is participating in national Medicaid Expansion, which will increase accessibility to substance abuse treatment. According to TFAH, only one in ten people currently suffering from addiction receive treatment, and this expansion will be an important step in remedying that discrepancy.

Perhaps most importantly though, Massachusetts is one of only 17 states to have both Good Samaritan and Rescue Drug laws, which Rich Hamburg, Deputy Director of TFAH, said are responsible for saving nearly 2,000 lives since 2007.

Rescue Drug laws expand the use of naloxone, which is used to treat individuals that have overdosed. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, naloxone is effective in counteracting the effects of an opioid overdose by “displacing narcotics at opioid receptor sites.” Good Samaritan laws remove liability concerns from laypersons that may be in a position to administer this drug to someone who has overdosed.

“These laws have been expanded to remove barriers to providing care,” Hamburg said. “You don’t want someone to hesitate for fear of liability.

Local Solutions

In addition to these statewide solutions, Worcester County is also working locally to combat prescription drug abuse.

The City of Worcester’s Division of Public Health was awarded a Partnership for Success Grant specifically targeted at evidence-based strategies for prescription drug abuse prevention from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.

“Specific examples include coordination and promotion of safe prescription drug disposal such as the Prescription Take Back Day. This is free and anonymous, no questions asked. This is a safe way to rid the home of unwanted, unused or expired prescription or over the counter drugs,” said Brindisi.

“Other strategies include a planned April 2014 parent focused media campaign about the dangers of prescription drugs in the home. We are tapping into a national campaign called The Medicine Abuse Project, which provides parents with education and tips on how to talk to their teens about abuse and how to safely dispose of drugs. In tandem with the WDMS, the WDPH is working on safe prescribing training for the medical community. We are also working with local schools on potential development of a RX Drug Prevention curriculum,” said Brindisi.

The Prescription Take Back Day will be held Saturday, October 26th from 10AM–2PM at the Worcester Senior Center at 128 Providence Street.
 

 

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