Massachusetts Government Battles the OxyContin Epidemic


U.S. Congressman Bill Delahunt held a meeting earlier this month to address the related issues prescription drug abuse and heroin overdose.  Unless you are a first time visitor to our blog, then you will be familiar with our take on the connection between OxyContin and heroin overdose.

OxyContin is a Gateway to Heroin
A Rocket Ship to Heroin

We’ve written at length about how the epidemic of heroin addiction and overdose is closely related to the abuse of prescription drugs like OxyContin.  The State of Massachusetts recently released a report that stated “The Commonwealth is in the midst of a serious and dangerous epidemic.” This same report pointed out that between 2002 and 2007, 78 citizens of Massachusetts lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan while 3,265 citizens died from drug related causes.

Representative Delahunt headed up a committee on April 12th to try and brainstorm solutions to this growing problem.  Delahunt discussed the prevalence of prescription medications that are illegally purchased in Florida and brought to Massachusetts.  85% of the country’s OxyContin prescriptions are written in Florida.

Rep. Delahunt and State Senator Steven Tolman also addressed the phenomenon of how much the states are paying to treat opiate addiction.  Three quarters of all treatments in Massachusetts were covered by MassHealth, the state health insurance. “Private Insurance has turned its back…” said Steven Tolman.

Senator Tolman and OxyContin Legislation

Massachusetts already has an OxyContin and Heroin Commission that is headed up by Senator Steven Tolman.  Last year, this panel reported on the abuse of OxyContin and made many sound recommendations to reform the way that addictive narcotics are handled in the health care and judicial system. Some recommendations included

– shielding people from punishment who are aware of opiate addicts and trying to get them to treatment

– improving the monitoring of prescribed medications so that authorities can be alerted more easily when an individual is collecting multiple prescriptions

– increasing the breadth of services offered by “recovery high schools” where teen substance abusers recover in a monitored setting to prevent abuse and relapse

The Bill

Tolman has filed a bill  which lays out legislation that would inevitably reduce the rampant abuse of opiates in Massachusetts.  The bill would:

  • Allow doctors to say how long treatment should last (rather than relying on the  insurance companie’s judgements)
  • Enforce the use of tamper resistant prescription pads
  • Enable an interstate compact which will facilitate monitoring of prescriptions across multiple states (making it easier to identify users who are “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions

We at StopOxy are relieved to see this kind of high level meeting occur which will hopefully pay dividends in the battle against OxyContin and heroin addiction.