Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What is being done about the opioid epidemic at a national, state, and local level

Elaine Zhang, BS
Research Associate 

The rise in pain killer prescriptions from doctors combined with aggressive marketing campaigns from large pharmaceutical companies in the 1990’s awakened a tsunami of addiction that has swept through the US resulting in significant increase in opioid drug overdose death rates. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from a drug overdose.1  Since 2011, the rate of drug overdose deaths due to opioid prescriptions started to level out while death rate due to heroin overdose experienced a sharp increase, see graph below. In 2016, roughly 64,000 people died due to drug overdoses making it the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old.2

Massachusetts is experiencing the opioid epidemic at a much higher rate than the rest of US. In 2014, Massachusetts’s age adjusted overdose death rate was 23.3 per 100,000 which is more than doubled the national rate of 9.6 per 100,0003. In 2017, there were 932 confirmed opioid related deaths in Massachusetts; 76% of deaths were male and 24% were female.4 The opioid epidemic also affects the white non-Hispanic population at a much higher rate than any other race. Of the 932 confirmed opioid-related deaths in 2017, 81% or 753 of those deaths were of people of white non-Hispanic race/ethnicity. This group has historically had higher death rates than any other race/ethnic group in the past three years4, see graph below. 

At a county level, certain counties are experiencing higher opioid overdose death rates than other ones. Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Duke, Essex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Worcester counties currently have the highest opioid overdose death rate,5 see map below. 

In October 2017, the president declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. The Department of Health and Human Services has outlined a five-point strategy to combat the opioid epidemic:
1.       Improving access to treatment and recovery services
2.       Promoting use of overdose reversing drugs
3.       Strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance
4.       Providing support for cutting edge research on pain and addiction
5.       Advancing better practices for pain management.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $28.6 million in funds to 44 states and the District of Columbia to help strengthen prevention efforts and better understand the epidemic through public health data6, which aligns with part of the HHS five point strategy.

In 2015, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed Chapter 55 into law in response to the opioid epidemic. The new law allowed different government data sets to be analyzed to help guide policy decisions and better understand the opioid epidemic.7 The Baker administration also allocated $34.5 million to combat the opioid epidemic through raising awareness, increasing prevention, and providing education. Recent data shows that in the first 9 months of 2017 there were 167 fewer opioid related overdose deaths when compared to the first 9 months of 2016, a 10% drop in deaths.8 Along with the decrease in deaths, there has also been a 30% decrease in the number of patients who were prescribed an opioid in the third quarter of 2017 when compared to the first quarter of 2015.8

At ICH, we work on several projects that focus on the opioid substance use disorders. SUSTAIN Communities Evaluation is an initiative funded by the GE Foundation with support from Partners HealthCare. SUSTAIN Communities provide grants and technical assistance to community health centers to build capacity for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for patients with opioid use disorder.  ICH Assistant Director of Research, Leah Zallman, MD, MPH, works on a project funded by a small foundation (McManus) that uses electronic health record data to understand the relationship between opioid prescriptions and the development of opioid abuse disorder. ICH is looking into Cambridge Health Alliance data among patients who have ever been prescribed opioids and tracking how many developed opioid use disorders, how long it took, and what are the clinical predictors. Promoting Older Women’s Engagement in Recovery (POWER) is a collaborative project aimed at the prevention of opioid misuse in older women ages 55 or older in Cambridge and Somerville. The Institute for Health and Recovery received the grant and works alongside with Cambridge Health Alliance, Somerville Cambridge Elder Services, and the Cambridge Council on Aging to address the risk factors of opioid misuse among older women through technical assistance for partnership sites and direct support groups for women 55+. ICH is the evaluator on the project.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addition, there are some resources available to help. The Massachusetts SubstanceAbuse Information and Education Helpline provides free and confidential information and referrals for alcohol and other drug abuse problems. The Institute for Health and Recovery helps families and youth with substance abuse issues access publicly funded services. The Suboxone Hotline Office Based Opioid Treatment Program at Boston Medical Center provides referrals and information on opiate and heroin treatments available at doctor’s offices statewide. Cambridge Health Alliance offers an outpatient addiction service which helps adults to and maintain sobriety. The Fresh Start Alcohol and Drug Recovery Group is an anonymous peer support group that meets on Thursday evenings at CHA Revere Care Center. Smart Recovery is a scientifically tested program for adults who want to manage their addiction and is held every Tuesday evening at CHA Everett Care Center.

Below are the numbers for each helpline:
The Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline:
Phone Toll Free: 1-800-327-5050
TTY: 1-888-448-8321

The Institute for Health and Recovery:
Phone: 1-866-705-2807
TTY: 1-617-661-9051

Suboxone Hotline Office Based Opioid Treatment Program at BMC:
Phone: 1-866-414-6926 or 1-617-414-6926



  1. You have write well on special topic which is very useful. thank
    clipping path service

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hiv disease for the last 3 years and had pain hard to eat and cough are nightmares,especially the first year At this stage, the immune system is severely weakened, and the risk of contracting opportunistic infections is much greater. However, not everyone with HIV will go on to develop AIDS. The earlier you receive treatment, the better your outcome will be.I started taking ARV to avoid early death but I had faith in God that i would be healed someday.As a Hiv patent we are advise to be taking antiretroviral treatments to reduce our chance of transmitting the virus to others , few weeks ago i came on search on the internet if i could get any information on Hiv treatment with herbal medicine, on my search i saw a testimony of someone who has been healed from Hiv her name was Achima Abelard and other Herpes Virus patent Tasha Moore also giving testimony about this same man,Called Dr Itua Herbal Center.I was moved by the testimony and i contacted him by his Email.drituaherbalcenter@gmail.com We chatted and he send me a bottle of herbal medicine I drank it as he instructed me to.After drinking it he ask me to go for a test that how i ended my suffering life of Hiv patent,I'm cured and free of Arv Pills.I'm forever grateful to him Drituaherbalcenter.Here his contact Number +2348149277967...He assure me he can cure the following disease..Hiv,Cancer,Herpes Virus,Epilepsy, fibromyalgia ,ALS,Hepatitis,Copd,Parkinson disease.Diabetes,Fibroid...

  4. infertility for easy Conception. (No more adoption, with Dr Itua your problem will solve and you will have your child with ease.I have been blog Sites for a while now and today i felt like i should share my story because i was a victim too. I had endometriosis for 18 years and i never thought i would ever get a cure due to the terrible symptoms i had and this made it impossible for me to get pregnant even after 12 years of marriage and it was a serious issue. I got to know about Dr. Itua on Blog Site who treated someone and the person shared a story of how she got a cure and let her contact details, i contacted Dr. Itua and he actually confirmed it and i decided to give a try too and use his herbal medicine that was how my burden ended completely. My son will be 2 this december and i am gratetful to God and thankful to his medicine too.Dr Itua Can As Well Cure The Following Desease…Cancer,Hiv,Herpes,Epilepsy, Hepatitis B,Liver Inflammatory,Diabetis,Fribroid,Get Your Ex Back, If you have (A just reach his on (drituaherbalcenter@gmail. com Or Whatsapp Number..+2348149277967)He can also advise you on how to handle some marital's issues.He's a good man.