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Opiate death problem shifts to Worcester

A few months ago, Taunton seemed to be the center of the “bad heroin” epidemic with a huge increase in opiate related overdoses and deaths. Now Worcester, a larger city in the middle of the state reports a similar problem. Last Spring, Taunton reported a major increase in opiate related overdoses and deaths with 21 overdoses reported during the week of March 9 alone. The past few weeks have seen no reported overdoses or deaths in that city. The action appears to have shifted to Worcester, another city at the crossroads of a number of major highways.

Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme reports that already this month there have been 33 overdose calls, with 9 deaths reported. Worcester has not been employing Narcan, the drug that is an antidote to an opiate overdose but reports that police officers are just completing training in using the drug and $13,000 worth of Narcan has been ordered. Plans call for the medication, in nasal spray form, to be available in all police cruisers in about two weeks.

Narcan is a prescription medication that is an antidote to an opiate overdose. NARCAN (naloxone) is indicated for the complete or partial reversal of opioid depression, including respiratory depression, induced by natural and synthetic opioids. Originally administered through injection, the drug is now available in a nasal spray form that may be administered by anyone.

The state department of public health reports that Statewide opioid-related deaths, which include overdoses of heroin and prescription drugs, nearly doubled between 2000 and 2011, rising from 363 to 642. A similar problem. located more in sections of the North Shore, was reported last year.

Our friends at MOAR remind us that with the new Good Samaritan law in Massachusetts, you may now call 911 to obtain help for an opiate overdose without fear of repercussions.

Officials in Taunton report that they are not certain why the overdose and death rate has dropped in their city as they note the same number of addicts on the streets as before. Possibilities include the elimination of a “bad” batch of heroin, change of location by major dealers and the increase in use and availability of Narcan. Let’s hope Worcester, and the rest of Massachusetts can follow suit.

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