August 31, 2021
Addiction and Overdose Are on the Rise: Here’s What Everyone Should Know

Substance use and overdoses are increasing nationwide as well as here in Massachusetts. Both are significant threats to personal and public health that were already increasing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both have risen even more rapidly since the pandemic began. Addiction and overdose know no boundaries – no matter your age, gender, race, or economic status, you or your loved ones can be at risk. With that in mind, here’s what everyone should know and understand about addiction.


Addiction and Overdose Are on the Rise in Massachusetts and Around the Country

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH), opioid deaths in particular are on the rise. There were 2,104 opioid deaths in Massachusetts in 2020, up 5% from 2019 and more than the previous peak in 2106. The increase in opioid deaths among black, non-Hispanic males was even greater – a staggering 69% increase from 2019 to 2020, the greatest increase among any ethnic or racial group.

Nationally, CDC data shows a 30% surge in all overdose deaths in 2020. More than 93,000 Americans died of an overdose during that period, the highest number ever recorded.

Those increases are being seen here at UMass Memorial Health – Harrington, as well. In 2020, there were a total of 4,079 individuals treated for substance abuse through the health system’s emergency room, behavioral health services and Addiction Immediate Care center. As of July, that number stands at 2,097 for 2021.

“This continues to be a deadly epidemic,” said Dr. Ami Zakai, Medical Director of Behavioral Health Outpatient Services.  “We have worked hard at UMass Memorial Health – Harrington Behavioral Health to develop services that are highly accessible and immediately responsive so that patients can get treatment without waiting.”

Data shared by DPH Commissioner Margret Cooke earlier this month brings some hope that the increase in overdose deaths may be back on the decline here in Massachusetts. There were an estimated 1,038 deaths due to opioid overdose in the commonwealth during the first six months of 2021, about a 5% decrease from the same period last year.

Regardless, there are still far too many lives lost and impacted by substance use and overdose. Even one is too many. Knowing the signs to look for and where to turn for help is critical.


Addiction Prevention

You can be proactive in preventing a substance use disorder from developing in yourself or a loved one. If you are concerned that the stress of the pandemic or any other life events or circumstances may put you or a loved one at risk for addiction, there are resources that can help. See the Massachusetts Substance Use Prevention page for more information. You may also wish to seek out mental health services to help ease the stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges that can contribute to substance use.


Signs of Addiction

Some common signs of addiction to look for in yourself or a loved one include:


Addiction Treatment Resources in Massachusetts

If you notice any of these signs, know that help is available, and the sooner you reach out for it, the better off you will be. Here are some resources for substance abuse treatment here in southern and central Massachusetts:

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