Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jul 2016
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2016 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.
Author: Matt Stout


State Study Shows Path to Addiction

At least two out of every three people who fatally overdosed in 2014 
had been given an opioid prescription in the years prior, according 
to new state data, which officials say underscores the long-held 
theory that even legally prescribed painkillers can help push people 
toward a deadly addiction.

"It certainly confirms what we believe," Marylou Sudders, the state's 
health and human services secretary, told the Herald yesterday. "It 
is significant, which is why we said we need to really focus on 
prescribing patterns, in getting drugs off the street - legal and 
illegal. ... Frankly we need to accelerate those efforts."

The findings, filed earlier this week by the Department of Public 
Health as part of a preliminary report, come as state officials say 
they're doing a deeper dive into what's driving the state's heroin 
and opioid epidemic, which claimed an estimated 1,526 fatal overdoses 
last year - a near threefold spike from a decade earlier.

Sudders said officials plan to release more detailed data in 
September. But the "significance" of what they've found so far 
prompted them to release this week's preliminary findings, according 
to a letter filed with lawmakers. They include:

"At least" two-thirds of the estimated 1,356 people who fatally 
overdosed in 2014 - or more than 900 - had an opioid prescription in 
the previous three years;

Nearly one of every 10 who fatally overdosed had at least one prior 
nonfatal overdose, though state officials warned that is an "underestimate";

And those who were given involuntary drug treatment were more than 
twice as likely to die of an overdose than those who sought treatment 
willingly or had no history of involuntary treatment.

That last finding was particularly "striking," said state Rep. Kate 
Hogan, who chairs the House Committee on Public Health.

"Those people that come and say, ' Here I am, I'm ready to do the 
program, I'm ready to do the detox,' those are the people that have a 
better chance," the Stow Democrat said. "So much of it is anecdotal 
and theory in how we approach addiction. All of this data - and gosh, 
it's really amazing - I think it's going to help us work smarter and 
more effectively."

The Baker administration and lawmakers have passed several reforms to 
address the rising tide of addiction, including a new law that limits 
first-time opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply.

Baker had also pushed a proposal that would have given doctors the 
power to hold patients involuntarily for up to 72 hours for treatment 
if they presented a risk to themselves or others.

Lawmakers ultimately stripped it from the legislation that passed in March.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom