It’s not just families who must battle the challenges presented by the growing ranks of drug addicts. Law enforcement and health care workers are on those same front lines.
It’s been documented that the jump in break-ins on the South Shore has been largely fueled by drug addicts desperate to feed their habits. Talk to police and you’re likely to hear a compassionate response acknowledging how drug addiction can transform a good person into a criminal.
Health care workers who treat addicts in our hospital emergency rooms know the same. Massachusetts is ground zero in the nation for emergency room visits for overdoses.
While reactive measures are necessary to combat crime and deaths associated with drug abuse, prevention is the preferred goal.
Under the leadership of newly sworn-in Chief Phil Tavares, the police department recently installed a drug-disposal receptacle in the station’s lobby. There, people can deposit any kind of prescription drug in as large a quantity as they have, no questions asked. It’s the first of its kind in Plymouth County.
Police said it will help reduce the on-the-street availability of highly addictive drugs – specifically opiates, the abuse of which often leads to heroin addiction.
“Our traditional efforts have been geared toward education and enforcement,” Tavares said. “This piece reduces the availability by providing a safe way of disposing of prescription drugs from peoples’ medicine cabinets and nightstands that could be misused and abused.”
Selectman Matt McDonough brought the idea from Norfolk County, where he once served as a prosecutor. Tavares said it’s his hope that the program will spread across the county and eventually help reduce both crime and addiction.
When the worst happens and a loved one overdoses, time is of the essence. Having on hand a powerful drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose can and has saved lives. According to the state Department of Public Health, 1,700 Massachusetts residents were saved using naloxone in the past six years.
In its long-running series on overdoses, The Patriot Ledger reported that 99 people, or one person every eight days, fatally overdosed in Quincy, Weymouth and Braintree in 2009 and 2010.
In order to have naloxone available to save an addict’s life, those around the addict must be adequately trained to administer the powerful drug. That’s exactly what Bay State Community Services in Quincy is doing, and we commend the agency for it.
Like Tavares, Sheriff Joseph McDonald believes in the proactive principle of a drug disposal program. Under the sheriff’s department, however, he has the opportunity to make it countywide.
“We are partnering with District Attorney Tim Cruz, our Plymouth County police chiefs and Triad groups to develop a safe drug disposal program,” McDonald said.
For McDononald, it’s personal. His 23-year-old cousin, whom he described as active and athletic, died of an overdose soon after he started using drugs.
By partnering with the county and making drugs less accessible, perhaps more lives will be saved.
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