Over a two day period in January, the city of Brockton reported 40 heroin overdoses. Two of these occurred on MBTA trains as they pulled into a Brockton station. With all first responders now carrying the overdose reversal medication NARCAN, no lives were lost. Until this two day period, Brockton was averaging three overdoses per day.
In the small Northshore community of Beverly, last week between March 16 and 20th there were 5 heroin overdoses. One person died. In neighboring Salem, in the month of January, there were 7 overdoses, in February another 7 and in three weeks in March, between the first and the 21st, there were 15. Out of these 29 overdoses, only 1 person died. Again, 33 people are alive today thanks to NARCAN.
In 2000, there were 338 opioid related deaths in the Commonwealth. This includes deaths from heroin and other opiate based drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet. In 2014, 1099 were confirmed opioid related deaths and 1173 including unconfirmed but suspected opiate related deaths. These numbers do not include suicides and represent a massive increase over a very short period of time.The deaths in 2014 represent a 65 percent increase in opioid related deaths over 2012. The estimated 2014 rate of 17.4 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2014 is the highest ever and shows a 228 percent increase over the year 2000.
Last Tuesday, a Lynn man was hospitalized at Salem Hospital for a heroin overdose. Upon closer investigation, it was found that he had 27 small packages of heroin inside his body and one of them had leaked open, causing the overdose. Revived with NARCAN and further treated in the hospital, it was revealed that the man had recently visited relatives in the Dominican Republic and apparently recruited there as a “mule” to transport the drugs back to the United States. This is a common tactic of drug traffickers. They threaten the victim’s family and coerce him into swallowing small packages of heroin, contained in the fingers of rubber gloves. The plan is to avoid detection, excrete the packages for the dealer and sell the drugs once in America. A source within the DEA has explained that foreign dealers will send 10 of these mules back to the United States, with the hope that 4-6 of them get through undetected. The lost mules are considered the “cost of doing business”. It is not the dealers’ concern if the mule dies or gets arrested.
Even with the Governor’s concerted attention, increased spending on education and treatment and innovative programs like Gloucester’s “Angel” program, the war on drugs on the North Shore continues.