BOSTON, APRIL 7, 2014….In a rare joint appearance, Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators and eight of its nine U.S. representatives, along with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, gathered Monday and urged the public to dispose of unneeded prescription medication as a way of fighting against opioid addiction.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an initiative designed to make it easier for people to dispose of medicines, is set for Saturday, April 26, 2014.
Congressman Joseph Kennedy, who helped organize the event with the Walsh administration, relayed to the group of pharmacists and media on hand at City Hall an example from his own life about how heroin is affecting the state.
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Kennedy said that when he was working as an assistant district attorney in Barnstable County, a couple approached him about their son who was awaiting arraignment on drug charges. The defendant’s father asked Kennedy to hold the man without bail because he said he didn’t know what else to do with his addict son.
“He had secured a bed for him at a treatment facility on Monday, but he needed to make sure he’d actually get there, and the only thing he could think of was having him spend the weekend in jail,” Kennedy said.
Walsh and the delegation members said there was much to be done to fight addiction, but that the medicine disposal program could make a dent in access to drugs that could lead to heroin addiction and death.
“A packet of heroin is cheaper than a six-pack of beer and it is as easy to get as a pack of gum. We must take action now to confront this epidemic and reduce its tragic effects. But what can we do? One easy step is to empty our medicine cabinets of old and unused prescription drugs,” Sen. Edward Markey said.
Walsh said to properly deal with the issue, patients must be allowed to stay for longer periods in rehab and detox, and there must be more halfway houses and more opportunities to put addicts in sober housing.
Walsh was asked by a reporter how much the state would need to spend to properly combat the problem.
“In Massachusetts I would say we probably need, to really tackle the issue properly – it’s a court issue, it’s a public safety issue – I’d probably say another $50 to $100 million. To get ahead of the situation, along with the preventative measures as well. We can’t just do treatment, we have to use prevention,” Walsh said.
Walsh said phone calls from parents fearful of losing their children underscore the need for a comprehensive approach to drug abuse problems.
“Legally prescribed drugs, especially opioids, are the starting point for many in life-threatening addictions,” said Walsh, who lives in Dorchester. “I’ve seen it in my own communities many times. I’ve seen it where I’ve watched young people who will get into a medicine cabinet, start by popping one pill. That one pill takes them and their family on a ride that nobody wants to be on. I’ve seen it time and time and time again.”
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Markey, Reps. Niki Tsongas, John Tierney, Stephen Lynch, James McGovern, William Keating, Kennedy, Michael Capuano and Katherine Clark joined Walsh for the event promoting the national drug take-back day. Western Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal couldn’t make it due to a conflict with the UMass Amherst class he teaches on Mondays.
The call from the delegation to encourage the admittedly minor but effective means of fighting the opioid epidemic comes soon after Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency and allowed the Department of Public Health to make anti-overdose drugs more available, increase prescription monitoring and take other steps to address drug abuse and overdose deaths.
Anyone wanting to dispose of drugs can do so at sites sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement. The service is anonymous and locations can be found at the DEA’s website (http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html).
Copyright 2014 State House News Service