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Opioid-related overdose deaths are down 11% in Massachusetts for the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period last year. At 611 confirmed deaths, with 292 to 363 additional deaths estimated, the number is still tragically high.
The decrease in fatalities is largely attributed to increased distribution of the overdose reversal drug known as naloxone, or Narcan, a highly-effective intervention responsible for rescuing 4,079 individuals from opioid-related overdoses in 2018, with 3,628 of the reported rescues performed by people who use drugs.
Community distribution of naloxone to people who use drugs and people who are likely to witness an overdose has a proven track record of reducing preventable opioid-related overdose deaths. Naloxone, which is safe enough to use on an infant, has no side effects, and no potential for abuse, is available to any Massachusetts resident from most pharmacies through their insurance. Individuals who are likely to experience or witness an overdose may also obtain free naloxone and training on how to respond to an overdose from organizations participating in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) program, like the Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team.
Opioid-related overdose death isn’t the only challenge facing people who use drugs, however. Individuals in active use, particularly those who inject drugs, also face increased risk of contracting infectious diseases and other health complications. While naloxone is the most effective tool for preventing opioid-related overdose deaths, other methods of harm reduction like risk reduction kits, needle exchanges, and routine testing can lower the rate at which infectious diseases are spread through injection drug use.
In addition to overdose education and naloxone distribution, Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team offers the following services to the community:
Every opioid-related overdose death is tragic. Most could be prevented by effective, timely intervention with naloxone and/or emergency medical care. Stigma against people who use drugs continues to present a challenge to reaching those at-risk of experiencing an overdose and although overall fatalities are trending downward opioid-related overdose deaths have become the leading cause of workplace fatalities according to a special study conducted by the Occupational Health Surveillance Program in 2018.
Drugs take beautiful people out of the world, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Providing safe, effective, evidence-based interventions to more members of our community, particularly those likely to witness an overdose, has a significant impact on reducing drug-related fatalities by giving people who use drugs and the friends and family who love them better tools to reduce risk and maintain their health and wellness.
You can learn more about Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team and services here.
If you would like to support our prevention work or any of our other services for individuals and families facing the challenges of homelessness, substance use disorder, chronic illness, or infectious diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, please click here to make a gift to support any of our programs or “where needed most.”Victory Blog. Bookmark the permalink. ← Phaedra’s Story
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