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In Massachusetts, heroin addiction is now officially declared a public health emergency. Governor Deval Patrick made the declaration this past Thursday, calling for wider availability of overdose reversal medications.

From 2000 to 2012, deaths from heroin addiction have increased an astonishing 90%. From 2006 to 2010, fatal heroin overdoses increased by 45% across the nation. It is no wonder that Governor Patrick wants to make naloxone (aka narcan) available to both emergency personnel, as well as families who “fear a loved one might overdose” when looking at the issue in this light.

Unfortunately, this is yet one more Band-Aid solution to the continuing addiction epidemic. While we applaud that the Governor and other officials are bringing the issue to the forefront of conversation, preventing an opiate overdose using medication is a poor way of treating the real underlying issue.

That being said, as many an addict, alcoholic, or loved one of the aforementioned groups knows, addiction recovery is not something that can be imposed on someone. In other words, they have to want it, and they have to work at it. Without those two qualities, there is little hope.

This solution at least gives addicts and loved ones a proverbial mulligan when the worst happens (and it will, eventually). So long as we are still alive, there is hope that the day will come when we as addicts and alcoholics truly want that recovery and are willing to work for it. While safety nets help prevent tragedy, it is a bad idea to rely on them, and that is exactly what these medications lead to.

It is also curious that Governor Patrick made no mention of making more resources available for those who are looking for long-term recovery. Some addicts and alcoholics may not even know that such options exist—let alone are within their grasp if they truly want it.

While the issue of court cards has been somewhat controversial, the truth remains that these programs help far more addicts and alcoholics find long-term recovery than they hurt. Even for those already in recovery, it is a way of delivering our message to more addicts and alcoholics looking for a solution, and that is how we ourselves stay clean and sober.

So, in addressing the Massachusetts heroin epidemic, it is both notable and curious that resources on drug and alcohol recovery are absent from the proposed solution. For example, when someone goes to a dangerous place, the most common solution to keep from getting shot is not to wear a Kevlar vest. The solution is to stop going to such locations.

In the end, though, any step towards the loss of life—as temporary a fix as it may be—is a step in the right direct. Bringing the conversation of not just Massachusetts heroin problem, but the nation’s as a whole, is also a step in the right direction. Now, getting addicts and alcoholics a chance at a new life is the next step.

Massachusetts Heroin Epidemic

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