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OxyContin and Heroin

Using Opiates in Massachusetts More Dangerous than Overseas Combat?

posted 12:53 AM EST, Sun November 08, 2009
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Mass. state drugs commission calls opiate use in the commonwealth an “epidemic” and to emphasize the point, compares the numbers of state citizens that die in overseas combat with those that die from drug overdoses – saying that drug overdoses cause 42 times more deaths.

According to the Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission, the state is in the middle of an opiate addiction “epidemic” that’s resulting in a terrible death toll.

The commission has just released a 71 page addiction report and to emphasize the human costs of addiction, the commission has compared the dangers of serving overseas with the risks of using drugs on the streets of Massachusetts, writing, “The Commonwealth is losing men and women on its streets at a rate of 42 to 1, compared to what the state is losing in two wars overseas.”

Between 2007 and 2007, the state lost 78 soldiers in combat overseas. Over that same period, 3265 in the state died from drug related causes.

State Senator, Steven Tolman, who chairs the commission, said, “We have a health crisis here. None of them [addicts] want to be sick. You could have a son or a daughter who was brought up properly with all the morals and values, and, when they get hooked on the stuff, it doesn’t matter; it’s all out the window.’’

Although the numbers affected are substantial, public perceptions of addiction tend to minimize the policy response. In an analogy statement, the commission wrote, “If the H1N1 virus killed 3,000 people in a five-year period in Massachusetts, the crisis would be center stage. Because of the stigma surrounding substance abuse, this epidemic is left in the shadows.’’

Some of the 20 recommendations made by the commission include:

  • Improving prescription drug monitoring programs
  • Protecting people who help overdosing drug users get medical care from liability or arrest
  • Reducing criminal penalties for drug users who seek treatment
  • Furthering support to “recovery high schools”
  • Increasing investment in alternative to incarceration programs, such as drug courts
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