Amid Soaring Overdose Rates, Reliable Rehab Needed in the Northeast

By The Fix staff 02/22/17

The continuing rise of overdose deaths in New York and Massachusetts underscores the need for access to effective drug rehab for opioid addicts.

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"Families have fought for years to free their loved ones from the grips of addiction.”

The Northeast states, including New England and New York, have been especially hard hit by the opioid epidemic, and recent numbers from 2016 show that opioid deaths are continuing to rise substantially.

In Massachusetts, for example, opioid overdoses rose 16 percent in 2016, driven in large part by more fentanyl in the heroin supply, according to a report by the Boston Globe.

“It provided maybe an extra boost in the effects of heroin. As a result it became popular with those who use heroin,” Colonel Richard D. McKeon, the Massachusetts State Police superintendent, told The Boston Globe. “We’ve seen them chasing fentanyl.”

The 877 opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts didn’t include numbers from the state’s largest cities, including Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield. Because of this the number is likely to be higher when the final data is in.

Joanne Peterson, executive director of Learn to Cope, a Massachusetts nonprofit support network for families, said that 2016 was the worst year for overdose deaths since she began in 2004.

“My wall is covered in obituaries,” she said. “It could be wallpaper if this doesn’t get better.”

Massachusetts is not alone. New York state had one of the most significant increases in the overdose rate between 2014 and 2015, and the trend was expected to continue when 2016 data is released. However, there is positive news about recovery in the Empire State. A June 2016 report from the New York State Comptroller found that residents of the state are more likely to enter New York treatment and rehab centers than people in other states. The comptroller promised that New York state would continue to invest in access to addiction treatment centers.

“For the sake of our children and families, it is imperative that we strengthen access to support and treatment services in every community and target resources to combat this epidemic in all its forms,” New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said last year. “Supporting New Yorkers struggling with substance use is critically important. In some cases, families have fought for years to free their loved ones from the grips of addiction.”

The continuing rise of opioid overdose deaths underscore the need for access to effective drug rehab for opioid addicts. A recent study found that only 49 percent of people who enter Massachusetts opioid addiction treatment end up completing their program, a statistic that highlights the need for better treatment options to help addicts work toward long-term recovery. 

Finding the right treatment center for an addict is one way to help more people complete rehab. Whether someone is looking for a short-term rehab program or a longer residential program, there are treatment centers through the Northeast that specialize in delivering care to opioid addicts. Treatment centers can also help address specific challenges like co-occurring mental illness or trauma. Finally, centers with a specific focus like religious life, professional career or outdoor adventure can help hold a person’s interest by addressing the specific challenges in their life.

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