OPIOIDS

Revelers at a Dead & Company show in Hartford, Conn., in June 2018.
Karen Brown / New England Public Radio

Recently, I decided to revisit my youth and go to a Dead show.

For the uninitiated, Dead & Company includes a few original members of the iconic '60s band The Grateful Dead, plus a few other musicians.

The last time I was among that much tie-dye was in the 1980s, when I was a college student following the Dead around the Bay area.

And I will admit — because I’m pretty sure there's a statute of limitations — I was not unfamiliar with the pungent haze wafting through the lawn seats, nor the marijuana-laced baked goods being offered to the crowed.

Opioids
Hailey R. Staker / U.S. Air Force

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Tuesday that the state is suing Purdue Pharma on behalf of 670 residents who were prescribed OxyContin, became addicted to opioids, overdosed and died.

Jillian Broomstein starts to cry when she talks about the day her newborn son Jeremy was taken from her by New Hampshire's child welfare agency. He was 2 weeks old.

"They came into the house and said they would have to place him in foster care and I would get a call and we would set up visits," she says. "It was scary."

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Carrie Healy / NEPR

Western Massachusetts will soon have its own treatment facility for opioid addicts. The Stonybrook Stabilization and Treatment Centers will be in both Ludlow and Springfield. 

A thin man with a touch of gray leans against a wall in Boston’s South End and takes a long drag on his cigarette.

He’s pondering a question: Why are opioid overdose death rates steady or dropping for most drug users in Massachusetts, but rising among blacks?

“I have no idea why it’s higher among blacks, none at all,” says Gary. We’ve agreed to use just first names in this story for people whose drug history might hurt their chances of employment or housing.

The tall, gangly man twists a cone of paper in his hands as stories from nearly 30 years of addiction pour out: the robbery that landed him in prison at 17; never getting his GED; going through the horrors of detox, maybe 40 times, including this latest, which he finished two weeks ago. He’s now in a residential unit for at least 30 days.

As opioid overdose deaths rapidly increase, the U.S. Surgeon General is urging more people to carry naloxone, the overdose-reversal drug. The recommendation is strongly supported by The Connecticut State Medical Society.

At a press conference in Springfield, Massachusetts, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced several arrests of individuals who allegedly sold opioids that led to a string of overdoses.
Sean Teehan / NEPR

A spike in severe and fatal opioid overdoses in western Massachusetts this month led an emergency room doctor to alert state police, and three people are now facing charges.

A pipe was the only sign of drug use near Chris Bennett’s body, in November. But it looked like the 32-year-old Taunton native had stopped breathing and died of an opioid overdose. Bennett’s mother Liisa couldn’t understand what happened. Then she saw the toxicology report.

“I’m convinced he was smoking cocaine that was laced,” she says. “That’s what he had in his system was cocaine and fentanyl.”

Figures on overdose deaths grab headlines, but treatment data could save lives. In response, health officials have released new information on emergency room visits for drug overdoses, numbers that paint a fuller picture of the state's opioid crisis.

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