Rep. James Arciero of Westford, who represents the 2nd Middlesex district in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, had been continuing to push for Bill H.2219. This bill would introduce non-opioid alternatives in pain treatment in an attempt to curb the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.
The opioid crisis has become a nationwide epidemic. According to research from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as of 2020, “more than 130 people a day have died from opioid-related drug overdoses across the United States.” This crisis only worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to an increase in opioid usage.
The opioid situation in Massachusetts reflects the ongoing nationwide trends. According to a statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “opioid-related overdose deaths rose by 5 percent in 2020.” The Merrimack Valley, which includes the cities of Lowell and Lawrence, as well as Arciero’s district, has long struggled with handling the opioid epidemic.
“I don’t have to tell you of the devastating impact that the use of opioids has had on our nation and state in the last two decades,” Arciero said in his testimony on the bill, which he presented to the Massachusetts House of Representatives earlier this year.
“Addiction and death have become all too common as these very dangerous drugs have gone from our hospitals and doctor’s offices to our streets and vulnerable populations,” Arciero added.
Much of the opioid crisis stems from people who were initially prescribed opioids as pain medication but then became addicted and began to abuse them. Many medical professionals prescribe oxycodone as a method of treating pain and severe illnesses, and as a result oxycodone has become one of the most heavily abused substances. The addiction to opioids such as oxycodone has at times led to people using illegal drugs such as heroin.
Arciero’s bill aims to curb the use of opioids in favor of other pain treatments, such as medical marijuana, which was legalized in Massachusetts following a ballot question in 2012. Medical marijuana has long been advocated by many as a safer and less addictive method of pain treatment than opioids.
“This legislation simply seeks to have non-opioid alternatives given equal weight to the use of opioids, whose strength and addictiveness pose such a risk to some of our citizens,” Arciero said.
“Specifically, the bill seeks to establish a program to develop and publish an educational pamphlet regarding the use of non-opioids as an alternative strategy to deal with the treatment of pain,” Arciero added.
Arciero hopes that this bill will allow medical professionals to introduce more non-opioid alternatives to their patients seeking pain treatment. Through that effort, Arciero hopes that the bill will help decrease the rate of opioid abuse and addiction across the state.
“You know the countless stories we have heard of individuals, suffering from pain, who have been given opioids and who have found themselves quickly addicted to these serious and strong forms of medication,” Arciero said.
“This bill seeks to give patients the critical information they need to make informed and safe medical decisions about their care. The right to control one’s medical decision is fundamental in our society and this bill will add to the ability to do so.”