Essex County: Hit Hard by the Opioid Crisis

A national epidemic hits home.

Just about every community in Massachusetts and across the nation has been touched by the upsurge in opioid addiction and the consequences of that trend – but Essex County has been particularly hard-hit. 

How are we treating the problem?

Admissions to drug treatment in Essex County for abuse of heroin or other opioids have increased 15% since 2008, compared to a 27% increase in the state and a 9% increase in Middlesex County. By 2017, heroin and other opioids were responsible for 55% of admissions in Essex County, up from 45% in 2008.

Total drug treatment admissions in the county were down 7% - compared to a 3% decline in the state and a 12% decline in Middlesex. Essex’s rate of admissions, 135 per 10,000 residents, was below the state rate of 144 but far higher than the Middlesex County rate of 78. 

The High Human Cost of Addiction.

Drug overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2000 to a rate of 35 per 100,000 residents in Essex County – similar to the state (33) but above the nation (21) and comparable counties (which range from 15 to 22). These figures include deaths from all types of drugs, and both accidental and intentional deaths. In a potential sign of progress, the rate of overdoses declined 12% from 2017 to 2018. As new data is released, we can see that trend continued.

Drug-Related Arrests have Increased.

Drug-related arrests are down in Essex County, decreasing 11% since 2000. Drug-related arrests declined 55% from the 2007 peak of 1,450 to less than 650 in 2019.

Drug abuse has far-reaching effects.

The available data only tell part of the story – we know that drug addiction has far-reaching effects. Drug addiction, overdose, and arrest all disrupt the life of the user and their family through expense associated with medical care, legal trouble, or the drugs themselves. It can also make finding and holding employment difficult. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the emotional costs. No one has a full picture of the impact of opioids on a life or a community, but we know they exact a major toll. For more information , we encourage you to read up on incarceration, recidivism, and health care costs.


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