"Heroin's descent" and Understanding a Desperate Need for Adequate Treatment

"Death rates from heroin overdose nearly quadrupled in the United Statesbetween 2002 and 2013, when the number of people reporting past-year heroin abuse or dependence rose to 517,000, a nearly 150 percent increase from 2007. In 2014, the use of heroin and other opioids killed 1,256 people in Massachusetts, an increase of 34 percent over 2013 and 88 percent over 2012.

“[T]he number of people with a substance-use disorder is 23 million, 95 percent of whom do not think they need treatment and do not seek it. It’s a vast problem, and does not even include those engaged in risky use, one accident or error away from a potentially disastrous consequence.

“I think … this is one of the most underrated, underfunded areas in our nation because of the sheer population size [involved] and impact of problematic, risky use or substance-use disorders on every component of our society.”

Work remains on almost every aspect of the problem, but prevention efforts are “at a disastrously low level” and should be made a priority, Madras said. She and Ward also agree that the stigma against drug abusers persists as a roadblock to better care, including in the medical community."

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