Mclean Hospital

Battling the Opioid Epidemic Close to Home

By Hilary S. Connery, MD, PhD

February 13, 2018

Each day, we see it on the nightly news, in the paper, and in our hospital—the opioid epidemic has seeped into the fabric of our culture and years from now, we will still be coping with its catastrophic effects. While this is a national battle, it is also one being fought in our own backyards. In one way or another—through deaths, nonfatal overdoses, or disruptions to jobs, marriages, families, and neighborhoods—every community in Massachusetts has been impacted by this crisis.

McLean treatment
Through clinical care, research, training, and education, McLean is committed to battling the opioid epidemic

The epidemic close to home:

  • In Massachusetts, opioid-related deaths in the state were more than four times higher in 2015 than in 2000; this rate of increase is several times faster than anything seen here before
  • In 2013-2014 alone, opioid-related deaths occurred in two-thirds of the cities and towns in Massachusetts
  • The opioid-related death rate in Massachusetts has surpassed the national average

But not all the statistics are bad. Thanks to several factors, including better revival rates through the use of naloxone, the drug that reverses an opioid overdose, an estimated 10 percent fewer Massachusetts residents died in the first nine months of 2017 as compared with the same period in 2016. Massachusetts is also home to some of the most aggressive legislative response in the country to the opioid crisis. While none of this signals that the tide has turned in this battle, these are certainly victories to be celebrated.

We also cannot lose sight of the personal victories we witness each day, like:

These hard-won victories are sparked in McLean’s research labs, clinical units, and classrooms, as well as at the State House and on Capitol Hill. Through our work in the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, whether it comes in the form of clinical care, research, or education—we stand side-by-side with our patients, their families, local and federal legislators, policymakers, law enforcement, and educators to battle this public health crisis.

You can learn more about our work this month when two of the country’s leading experts on opioid addiction, who also happen to be faculty here at McLean—Bertha K. Madras, PhD, and Roger D. Weiss, MD—each present during McLean’s Grand Rounds. Dr. Madras, who is a member of President Trump’s opioid commission, will present “The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis: Root Causes and Reverse Engineering,” on Thursday, February 15, while Dr. Weiss will address “Treatment of Prescription Opioid Dependence,” on February 22.

You can also learn more about the latest in addiction treatment and research during our annual addiction conference this May.

Hilary S. Connery, MD, PhD, is the clinical director of McLean’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.