Massachusetts governor takes on heroin addiction

July 30, 2015

According to state data, in 2014 opioid addiction, one of the state’s biggest problems, turned into fatal overdose for approximately 1,000 Massachusetts citizens. These numbers increased by 33 percent since 2012. Even before these numbers came out, warning came from the 2013 Youth Health Survey, which stated that there has been a rise in prescription painkiller use among adolescents. Approximately 4 percent of middle school students and 13 percent of high school students noted they had taken some form of prescription medication that was not theirs.

Taking action

In March 2014, the government declared a Public Health Emergency. As a result, a task force was formed to try and figure out a way to combat the number of lives and families affected by prescription painkillers and heroin. The force included legislators, medical professionals, people in law enforcement and community workers. Together, their first attempt at battling this epidemic is the development of the campaign titled “Stop Addiction in its Tracks.” The team plans to announce more recommendations in the weeks to come.

In 2013, 13% of high school students took prescription drugs.

This campaign will release several television ads and videos online that discuss the dangers of opioid addiction. Many of the advertisements also use families who lost a loved one to this heartbreaking issue. One of the stories centers around a family from Harwich, who lost their beloved daughter Liz, who died of a heroin overdose in 2011 at the age of 23. The family’s video, told through the eyes of Liz’s mom, discusses how caring and loving Liz was before addiction took hold of her. “People deserve to understand the dangers of prescription drugs and how easy it is for children to become addicted,” Janis McGrory said in the video. The advertisements will end in July. All of them will mention a self-help site set up by the task force. The site includes common signs of opioid addiction, risk factors, prevention methods, the most common types of misused prescription painkillers and a guideline on how parents can talk to their children on the dangers of these drugs as well as how to address a child who is abusing them. Lastly, the site offers different types of resources to those who need help right away and how to use Naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses. Aside from the website and the advertisements, there will also be several public service announcements discussing opioid addiction and prevention methods. “If you think it can’t be your kid, think again,” she said. “With this messaging, we are impressing on parents that the road to heroin could start with what is left in our own homes and medicine cabinets.”

A hopeful effort

Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders, believes that these types of messaging will be effective in educating parents on the immense prevalence of this substance abuse.

The task force came up with the recommendations by creating an Opioid Working Group back in February. The team held public forums to figure out what was most important to people in combating this crisis. Many of those who showed up were concerned parents. The main findings from these settssions proved that parents wanted to hear statistics and facts on how people are affected by opioid addiction. They wanted to know what signs led up to overdoses and misuse, and how often it happens. So that is what the task force did on the website. “The website provides straight-forward details along with personal stories from parents who have dealt first-hand with this tragedy,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. Hopefully these efforts as well as others in the future will help Massachusetts eliminate its opioid epidemic.

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