New England is a region in the United States that has been hit particularly hard by the opiate epidemic over the past decade. In the first half of 2015, Massachusetts had 684 people die from opiate overdose. It is a major epidemic that has gained the attention of lawmakers in New England. Drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescription opioid medications are now responsible for an average of 44 deaths per day.
Lawmakers in New England have met with business leaders in the region to collaborate and discuss ways to curb the areas opiate abuse and addiction problem. One such way of fighting the epidemic is by creating stricter regulations for prescribing opioid medications. In a huge move on Monday, Massachusetts top medical schools have announced that they have reached an agreement with the state that they will improve the ways in which they educate on the subjects of opiate abuse, focusing on recognizing signs of abuse, preventing such abuse and finding a solution for the abuse.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has been a major advocate for fighting the opiate epidemic. He and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan were among the speakers at an event sponsored by The New England Council. Baker told the audience that New England states are doing a great job of working together by sharing important information from each states prescription drug monitoring systems. When information is shared as it is now, it will create a strong force that will stop abusers from crossing state lines and getting multiple prescriptions filled by jumping from state to state. The state of Massachusetts had 1089 opiate overdose deaths in 2014 which was a 63 percent increase from 2012. The numbers continue to climb but the work being done by proactive state leaders like Baker are surely saving lives. The work that is being done will not change things overnight but it is having an enormous effect on the epidemic.
New Hampshire has also been hit very hard by the opiate epidemic as well. New Hampshire has one-fifth the population of Massachusetts but has had 258 lives taken by opiate overdoses.
Governor Hassan talked about the efforts to slow down the misuse of Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a strong narcotic painkiller that has been used as a cutting agent and mixed with heroin to make the batches more potent. These batches that have Fentanyl in them create chaos due to the extreme hike in potency which causes outbreaks of overdoses. “We know that we need to bring the laws and penalties in New Hampshire for the distribution and sale of Fentanyl in line with those for heroin,” Hassan said.
New England states are fighting and they are making progress in the way that opiates are being looked at. This is a national problem at epidemic levels and we can expect to see many states adopting the work that Governor Baker and Hassan have started to protect more citizens across the country.