Heroin use is on the rise in many parts of the country. Although it’s been a growing issue for years, drug abuse – and heroin in particular – has seen a renewed spotlight in the media in recent months, due in large part to the death of famed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman this past February.Now the growing drug problem in MA is raising a lot of concerns for officials.
Drug Problem in MA
How prescribed drugs lead to heroin
Prescription drugs, namely high-strength painkillers known as opioids, are where many experts say that the heroin problem begins. Whether from one’s own prescription, or given/stolen from a friend or family member, recreational use of painkillers and other prescription drugs beyond their prescribed use can quickly escalate to addiction. Initially, pills might be easy to come by, but once prescriptions expire or are prevented from being filled, the user can only obtain their drugs from the street. Aside from being far more dangerous than a pharmacy, street purchases are also very expensive, sometimes upwards of $30 per pill, and higher in different regions.
So, to curb costs, addicts turn to a different opioid in their desperation to get high: heroin. It is cheaper to come by than prescription pills, and in many cases, easier to obtain. Of course, it’s also easy to overdose.
Preventing deaths in overdoses
In the wake of the growing drug problem in MA, local and state governments are actively seeking ways to combat the problem. Connecticut and Pennsylvania, for example, are enacting new legislature, while Colorado is pushing for a state-run medication take-back program.
As WBUR in Boston reports, Massachusetts, where heroin abuse is a widely recognized problem, is fighting back with science.
Nalaxone, also called Narcan, is not a new drug, but has gained more press in recent weeks alongside heroin. That’s because it’s an overdose antidote that neutralizes the effects of heroin (among other opioids). Five communities in Massachusetts are piloting a new program in which first responders are armed with the nasally administered Narcan for overdose calls, which health and safety officials say are all too common. In just six days this February, one local fire department had 16 overdose calls.
Revere Fire Department Chief Michael Viviano says Narcan is a lifesaver. “It’s just incredible, it’s like magic,” says Viviano. “There’s somebody who’s on the ground, who’s literally dead…And you administer this stuff and sometimes in a minute or two or three they’re actually up and talking to you.”
The department’s Captain Jay Picarello echoed his Chief’s sentiments. “Someone loves that person who overdosed. It’s valuable for that reason. We’re bringing back a son back to a mother.”
Getting help before it’s too late
While Narcan can reverse the immediate effects of heroin and other drugs, it cannot offer a lasting solution; addicts still emerge from their overdose as addicts. A clean, sober life does not come in the form of an antidote, but rather requires a commitment to recovery. And recovery requires help.
If you need help for a drug addiction or are looking for answers for a loved one, contact The Watershed today: 1-800-861-1768.