The opioid crisis in America is in the news every day and its deadly and pervasive effect on our society is well known. Interestingly, not all geographic areas are experiencing this crisis to the same degree. Region by region, the numbers vary drastically. For example, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, opioid overdoses increased by 30% in 45 states, between 2016 and 2017. In big cities specifically, particularly in the Midwest, overdoses were up by as much as 54 to 70 percent.
These state-by-state differences are staggering, and they highlight the need to dig a little deeper to understand the reason for the variations and what actions can be taken to combat the opioid abuse issue.
The Problem: Different Kinds of Opioid Epidemics
A new study published by the Rural Society focused on opioid overdoses in rural and urban settings, and emphasizes the point that, from a technical point of view, there is not one but actually several different kinds of opioid epidemics occurring at the same time. An opioid syndemic – which has been particularly rampant in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, where the crisis first started – refers to multiple kinds of opioids found on the streets. This is extremely difficult to address, given that each type of opioid needs to be dealt with separately.
There are also prescription drug epidemics, heroin epidemics, and synthetic/prescription epidemics. The last of these is the kind we hear about most often, particularly in regard to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is twice as potent as morphine. In the last few years, there has been a dramatic uptick in fentanyl-related deaths because it is often mixed with other prescription drugs and sold to unknowing buyers who believe they are buying cocaine or heroin. People take it not realizing that this extra, deadly ingredient has been added, which often results in fatal consequences.
In the United States, synthetic opioids are the biggest contributor to opioid overdose deaths. This is also true in specific states, like Massachusetts, where synthetic opioids surpass every other kind of drug-related death. But other states have different challenges. Texas, for example, has had far more deaths related to cocaine and psychostimulants, whereas Kansas suffers from natural opioids, not synthetic.
Massachusetts’ Synthetic Opioid Crisis
Across Massachusetts itself, we see that the needs of the communities differ. The opioid death rate in the Bay State, according to recent data, has surpassed that of the country as a whole. On par with the national numbers, Massachusetts is also plagued primarily by the synthetic/prescription epidemic, although not everywhere. According to the Boston Globe – Worcester, Berkshire, and Hampden counties are experiencing an opioid syndemic. Hampshire and Franklin counties are primarily suffering from heroin, although David Peters, a sociology professor at Iowa State University and one of the coauthors of the Rural Society study, believes that recent data indicates a shift to synthetic opioids. In most every other county, communities struggle the most with synthetic opioids.
The Multi-Pronged Opioid Crisis Solution
“As communities sever one head of the opioid problem, a new drug appears to take its place,” write the authors of one study. The key to alleviating this public health crisis is a multi-pronged approach that will thoroughly address heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs, and synthetic opioids. We need to focus not just on certain substances but preventing new drugs from taking their place.
Another prong of the solution is, of course, treatment. Increasing access to addiction treatment is one of the most effective ways to combat the crisis, which is why we have been expanding access across Massachusetts and opening the door to recovery for people experiencing social, economic or financial barriers to treatment.
No single area, or person, has the exact same needs when it comes to treating addiction. That is why Spectrum offers individualized, comprehensive care that supports individuals throughout the various stages of recovery.
For more information about addiction treatment, call us today at 1-877-MyRehab and get started on your path to recovery.