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Reducing Opioid Deaths: Solutions That Work

December 21, 2017
Reducing Opioid Overdose Deaths Forum

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.