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May-11-2014 11:57printcomments

Massachusetts Declares War on Opioids/Heroin and Zohydro to Combat Health Crisis - Will 49 States Follow?

This is the epidemic Massachusetts is fighting and it was playing out live in front of us.

Massachusetts State House, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts State House, Boston, Massachusetts -

(MYRTLE BEACH, SC) - On April 29 I had the honor of standing on the steps of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts and speak about the opioid/heroin epidemic, the corrupt FDA and a recently approved opioid called Zohydro.

I had been invited by Joanne Peterson, Founder and Executive Director of an organization called Learn to Cope. Also, former State Senator and now President of the Massachusetts AFL/CIO, Steve Tolman made an impassioned speech to the family members who had lost loved ones to death and addiction.

Mass. Statehouse rally

Currently there is a crisis, an epidemic of OxyContin and heroin throughout Massachusetts. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is waging a war on another opioid continuing as the grim reaper by making it difficult for Zohydro to cause further loss of life in his state -- very difficult. Governor Patrick was unsuccessful in banning Zohydro in Massachusetts, but he used a strategy that hopefully 49 states in the country will follow.

Massachusetts State Senate leaders, frustrated at what they called a fragmented response to opioid overdoses announced a bill to attack the deadly opioid/heroin problem on a battlefield loaded with land mines.

Instead of jumping the land mines one at a time, they have combined more than a dozen proposals from several senators in a single act that would curb the prescription of risky narcotics, expand insurance for treatment and recovery, and require physicians to screen patients to gauge their potential for drug abuse.


“We have to break the cycle of addiction before it breaks us, and the time to act is now,” Senate President Therese Murray said at a State House news conference. “This is a bold move. We know it.” Governor Patrick praised the proposal as “doing the right thing for the people of Massachusetts by tackling this public health crisis head-on.

Opiate addiction deserves attention from all corners of government, and I look forward to working with Senate President Murray to address this emergency.”

The plan takes aim at prescription painkillers with a high risk of abuse by directing a state panel to compile a list of substitutes for opioids “determined to have a heightened level of public-health risk.”

Unless prescribing physicians specifically request the riskier drug, pharmacists would be required to distribute the substitute, which would have built-in safeguards such as crush-proof coatings. In addition, the bill seeks to empower the state health commissioner to bar unspecified drugs from pharmacy shelves for up to a year if they are deemed an “imminent hazard to public safety.”

Among other requirements, pharmacists must keep the drugs in a locked container and dispense them only to customers who can show a letter of medical necessity from their prescribing physicians. The bill also seeks to provide greater insurance coverage for drug-abuse treatment for patients who need up to three weeks of detoxification.

Joanne Peterson of Learn to Cope.

On a personal note on my unforgettable day in Boston on April 29, I had the distinct privilege of meeting and spending time with a true warrior, Joanne Peterson of Learn to Cope.  Joanne started Learn to Cope ten years ago and is a definite force to be reckoned with.  Not only does she have the support of elected officials in Massachusetts, but she has set up 13 chapters of Learn to Cope in her state. 

She also has 103 facilitators of these chapters - 60 of whom are certified to administer Narcan nasally to victims showing signs of overdosing on opioids or heroin.  Narcan, also know as naloxone, is an opiate antagonist used to reverse the effects of an opiate/heroin overdose. Narcan is safe and effective and comes in a nasal spray form that is legal to carry once someone is trained.

Learn to Cope is a registered Non Profit Organization, for more information feel free to contact Joanne Peterson at their web site  or in Facebook Learn 2 Cope.

Joanne carries a cell phone and a notebook computer.  She connects families with support systems, rehab facilities, meetings to assist in dealing with heroin and opioids.  Learn to Cope has been so successful in Massachusetts that she will be branching out to set up groups in other states offering support to families who need hope.

After the speeches at the State House, we walked to tour a "Recovery High School" in downtown Boston for kids who are in counseling for their addictions to opioids/heroin. They receive counseling, education and a high school diploma as they battle the demons of addiction. It was emotional to see young people who are determined to regain their lives and lead productive lives.

As we were walking through the streets of Boston, we saw a young man and a young woman leaning against a building and sliding down to the sidewalk. We were witnessing two young people suffering the effects of heroin before our eyes. We stopped a fire truck and four wonderful firemen ran to assist us. The two young people were trying to pass off their heroin as just coming from a methadone clinic and refused to let the firemen help them. One fireman looked at them and said "We'll be back to pick you up later. You know that, don't you?" I couldn't help but think this is the epidemic Massachusetts is fighting and it was playing out live in front of us. And for you pharma pushers and pain patients addicted to your opioids, save your comments about drug addicts for someone else. These two young people could be anyone's children including yours -- and they could have been prescribed OxyContin which led to heroin.

So as Governor Patrick, elected officials and Steve Tolman of the AFL/CIO protects Massachusetts from being crippled by Zohydro, OxyContin and heroin -- Joanne Peterson and Learn to Cope offer families hope in treatment. Heroes -- true heroes in every sense of the word.

This article dedicated to Barbara, Michael, Rose and Matt - Because you shared your wings, I flew. My love and gratitude always.

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Tracy I May 14, 2014 7:05 am (Pacific time)

Zohydro, OxyContin, oxycodone, ect are to manage chronic and acute pain. The government should try addressing the problem and treatment of addiction not in banning legitamite medication for treatment of pain.

Anonymous May 12, 2014 12:42 pm (Pacific time)

I am proud to say I was there at the State House in Boston. I stood with a picture of my dtr, now in recovery, but lost for 8 years in addiction to heroin which started with experimentation with OxyContin as an 18 year old. What was medication meant for end of life care doing in the hands of my 18 year old and all of her friends?

I'm proud to say I live here in Boston, where yes, the prescription drug epidemic is terrible but we are DOING something about it. I'm proud of our Governor who took a drastic step because kids are dying.
I'm proud that he did this the day after meeting with parents and family of kids affected by the epidemic and heard that we can find no treatment that is affordable, insurance pays minimal, our kids are 'spun dry' and they hit the street. Like the suffers on the Common. We, parents, go to sleep at night not knowing if the call is going to come that our kids didn't make it. I am one of the lucky ones. My dtr is in long term recovery but for the treatment she got, the money taken out of our 401K to pay for is a miracle she's still alive. And I call her my miracle.

I'm proud of my homegroup Learn To Cope. It saves lives every day.

I am truly sorry for people who are in pain. I'm sorry its hard for people to get medication. But what's gone on in this county with regard to more and more medication that used to be for hospice now being in high schools and junior high schools..when Vicodin was called in for a sore throat at his PCP's office, well we all need to stop and take a long hard look at every aspect of this epidemic and yes, and take a hard line.

Someone Truly Concerned May 12, 2014 7:15 am (Pacific time)

If politicians like gov. Patrick were really more concerned about drug abuse and the people of Mass., they would actually deal with the problem rather than attack the a company and product that has developed an extended release drug that is less potent than most of the ones on the market, and has also put into place what monitoring systems that every single company that sells opioid drugs should be doing. It is a shame that they don't actually direct their efforts to the issue at hand and not a company that is doing everything to ensure their drug does not become another Oxycontin. It is a shame that attacking a drug because they know it will get them visibility without pissing off the current abusers is considered good politics. Do your research like I did, this is all a joke and Patrick should be considered a criminal. If you want to help abusers get clean and keep others from becoming abusers, this is not the way!

It is the record of the companies that brings about the problem

Anonymous May 12, 2014 5:37 am (Pacific time)

You really need to look up how many Chronic Pain Patients in Mass are suffering. MASS Pain Inititive.

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