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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

MA Citizens Should Band Together Against Opioids

I lost a friend to heroin during the weekend of July 4. He overdosed alone and died in the hospital from a stroke. He was 24, recently married, and doing really well. You remember the little moments when somebody dies, right? We’re cruising through the woodsy back roads of the Berkshires. He jokes about spending high school summers growing corn for cash, calls himself a redneck, and turns up some band on the stereo. They’ll totally get famous, he says. I’m telling you.

Many people who read this will relate to my sadness and frustration. You’ve seen neighbors, friends, or family struggle with heroin addiction. Maybe you’ve battled it yourself. Addiction is a national problem just beginning to receive the political attention it deserves. Candidates for the 2016 presidency are bringing the issue to their platforms. The White House declared September the National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.  

Opioid addiction especially plagues New England. Over 1,000 died in Massachusetts last year. Just think about that; let that number sink in for a moment. 

Governor Baker prioritized the crisis when he entered office in January, and soon set up the Opioid Addiction Working Group (OAWP). After conversing with 150 organizations, consulting research, and listening to 1,100 individuals, the OAWP rolled out an action plan on June 22.

When I read it, I feel hopeful and energized.

The comprehensive plan seeks to combat the opioid epidemic on multiple fronts; doctor’s office, rehab, classroom, street-side overdose, and maybe the most important, the arena of public opinion. Check out the ‘Stop Addiction’ page of the Massachusetts Government website, because a small op-ed can’t capture the scope.

One crucial action point calls for the state to buy bulk orders of the overdose antidote Narcan, but this requires legislation. Narcan reverses opioid overdoses and pulls someone from the brink of death. The nasal spray requires almost zero prior medical training to administer. So why isn’t Narcan on every corner? Because it’s expensive and political opposition argues it enables drug use. The objective truth is: When people are dying, Narcan keeps them alive.

I advocate that Commonwealth citizens should bombard the social media accounts of their state reps. Write them letters. Tell them to support the OAWP action plan and legislation to purchase Narcan. Tell them about the addicts and families you know. 

More than that, we need to band together to dissolve the social stigma surrounding drug abuse, and to redefine drug addiction as a biological disease and not a moral defect. 

This work is done through daily conversation, social media feeds, and on your lunch break. Create an atmosphere that welcomes sufferers to be honest, so they don’t have to be alone. When opioid abusers are alone, they can use and they can overdose. Sometimes no one is there to help them.

For Ned, 3/19/91 – 7/4/15