BOSTON (WWLP) – Senator Ed Markey will be in Massachusetts on Monday to highlight the re-introduction of the Stop Fentanyl Overdoses Act, complete with a practical demonstration.
The Stop Fentanyl Overdoses Act is meant to empower the country’s public health response against the continued opioid epidemic, which claimed the lives of an estimated 2,300 people in our state alone in 2021.
This legislation would expand the state’s testing capacity for Fentanyl and other additives. It would also improve access to medication treatment for opioid use disorder for people who are incarcerated and require research into overdose prevention centers and the possibility of international mail and cargo screening.
Finally, the Act would make changes to the legal process, limiting civil and criminal liability for people who administer life-saving opioid overdose reversal medications like Narcan.
Overdose deaths from opioids have become the leading cause of injury-related deaths across the country. It’s a complex problem that has been growing for decades, and doctors are saying that it’s going to be difficult to solve.
Often, opioid misuse begins with prescription opioids, like oxycodone, prescribed by doctors for acute, or chronic pain, or post-surgery. They are, by nature, addictive. Once the prescription runs out or is revoked by the doctor, patients don’t have a lot of places to turn.
So, they may look for something on the street, like Heroin, which is an opioid, and has similar effects. That progression has changed medical practice over the last 15 years or so.
“Doctors underappreciated those risks. I think there is also increased recognition at least for Chronic pain that the benefits of these medications are not as long-lasting as one would hope,” said Peter Friedmann, the Chief Research Officer at Baystate Health.
As doctors prescribed prescription opioids less and less, the number of overdoses on those drugs has decreased dramatically. But, the crisis continues to grow with four times the number of opioid deaths in 2021 than in 2010.
The major driver now is illegally manufactured fentanyl, accounting for 70,000 of the 80,000 total opioid overdoses in 2021. Controlling the highly volatile dosing is near impossible in street sales, but with controlled prescriptions increasingly scarce, more people are turning to fentanyl.