Boston had five overdose deaths from July 1st to July 15th when normally the city sees maybe one or two in a whole month. The culprit: opiates, the class of drugs that includes heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, and prescription pills like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and Norco.
These painkilling narcotics have taken the lives of five people in two weeks from what appears to be a contaminated batch of heroin. The Boston Public Health Commission is alarmed and has made efforts to alert homeless shelters and community treatment centers in the hopes of preventing more use of the batch and further overdose deaths from opiates.
The Boston Public Health Commission’s addictions bureau has identified that all five people who overdosed were men between the ages of 18 and 45. The tainted heroin has been centralized to the South Boston and Dorchester area of the city, so the Public Health Commission believes it can be contained.
Heroin in its regular form is an extremely dangerous drug, so when tampered with and altered, the substance becomes even more unpredictable. If these young men had been using heroin for a while, their bodies had developed a tolerance to a certain dose of the drug. The chemical composition and potency of heroin they had been using was clearly very different than that of this batch of heroin. If this stronger version looked just like the regular version, a common dose is what sent these men to their fatal overdose.
Other Cities Problems
Other cities, like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, have reported altered forms of heroin leading to overdose deaths as well. Each strand of the drug, in all three cities, has been acetyl fentanyl, a drug that resembles heroin but is much more powerful. The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs issued a statewide warning about the spread of acetyl fentanyl being sold as heroin.
With drug use so prevalent, how can we continue tackling the problem when new, deadly drugs are infiltrating our neighborhoods?
Addressing The Issue
The United States government believes that its “War on Drugs” is effective, but substance abuse and addiction rates have continued despite forty years of war efforts. Changes are needed and no one feels that more strongly than Attorney General Eric Holder. As the first African-American in this job, he hopes to pass the much needed legislation that will reform the current drug war.
Although Eric Holder and several other elected officials feel race is a part of the “War on Drugs”, addiction is an equal opportunity disease. The use of a drug like heroin quickly leads to abuse, dependence, and addiction. The disease is progressive; it will only get worse when left untreated, much like cancer and diabetes.
Education and prevention are helpful tools in reducing the number of people who try opiates and other drugs, but once users are addicted, treatment is the only viable solution. Access to appropriate care is limited.
If lawmakers like Eric Holder can change regulations, addicts can more often be sent to treatment than to jail. Change can then happen in these individual’s lives so that abstinence and recovery can take the place of crime and toxic drugs.
Kate Green is passionate about helping people recover from opiate addiciton, learn more about her and the comapny she works for Balboa Horizons Treatment Services http://www.balboahorizons.com/.