Death from opioid overdose is a a national and regional crisis—58,000 American and 2,100 Massachusetts residents have died in the past year.
A public forum to discuss evidence-based ways to reduce deaths from opioid overdose took place before a standing-room only crowd at Baystate Medical Center on November 30, 2017.
The forum "Reducing Opioid Overdose Deaths: What Works?" brought together national experts, and regional and community leaders who discussed innovative solutions that others around the world have found to work.
Opioid Addiction is a Plague That Does Not Discriminate
Opioid addiction is controversial—some think drug use is a lifestyle choice, a social vice, a disease, or a crime.
But Dr. Peter Friedmann, president-elect of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine and Associate Dean for Research at UMass Medical School-Baystate, opened the forum by saying "we can at least start by agreeing that these are sacred human lives and that drug use is not a capital offense and does not merit death."
Acknowledging that some solutions for reducing opioid overdose deaths seem politically unfeasible, unpalatable, even illogical, Friedmann emphasized that there is no controversy about the science.
Experts Are Clear on What Needs to be Done
The expert panel was unanimous that the emphasis of efforts to reduce opioid overdose deaths should be to:
- Expand access to effective medication treatment for opioid use disorder
- Increase naloxone distribution and overdose education to persons who use drugs, their families, first-responders, and the community
- Augment efforts to deliver naloxone, sterile equipment, safe use and motivational interventions to out-of-treatment people who use drugs with a syringe service program
- Consider the benefits of a regional supervised injection facility in reducing fatal overdoses
According to Friedmann these recommendations are, "what the science says we could do if our reason can win the day and our humanity can overtake our fears."
Watch the Presentations
The title of each presentation links to the YouTube video. You can also download the presenters' slides.
- Causes and Epidemiology of Opioid Overdose Mortality
Peter D. Friedmann, MD, MPH, DFASAM, FACP, President-elect of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine
- Medication Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder
Robert J. Roose MD, MPH, FASAM, Vice President, Mercy Behavioral Health Care, and Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
- Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution
Alexander Y. Walley MD, MSc, Medical Director, Opioid Overdose Prevention Pilot Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health
- Role of Syringe Service Programs in Implementing Effective Interventions to Reduce Mortality
Liz Wynott, Director, HIV Health and Prevention, Tapestry Health
- Safe Injection Facilities: What Are They and How Do They Reduce Overdose Deaths?
Brandon D. L. Marshall PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health
- Street Outreach & Safe Consumption Services for Users Who Will Not Access “Brick and Mortar” Sites
Jess Tilley, Director, New England Users Union and coordinator of the Western Chapter of SIF-MA Now!