A new Massachusetts Department of Public Health report showing a decline in the number of opioid overdose deaths for the first half of 2017 is encouraging news for health officials who hope the state is starting to make inroads on the opioid epidemic. Many health experts believe the number of deaths from the epidemic in the U.S. will continue to rise for at least the next several years, according to an Aug. 22, 2017 WBUR CommonHealth article.

The August 2017 report showed about a 5 percent drop in overdose fatalities — or 53 fewer deaths — for the six months of this year compared to the same timeframe in 2016. The number of opioid prescriptions written by Massachusetts doctors was found to have declined 27 percent since early 2015.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Massachusetts started to turn the curve first because we’ve also been one of the most aggressive states in pursuing a wide range of policies as soon as possible,” said Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He cautioned, however, that “There’s no reason to start declaring victory or slow down our efforts. We don’t know when the peak is going to come.”

Read the WBUR’s CommonHealth article: State Officials ‘Encouraged’ By Drop In Overdose Deaths

Listen to an Aug. 11, 2017 NPR interview: From Alaska To Florida, States Respond To Opioid Crisis With Emergency Declarations

Learn more

Physicians’ opioid prescribing patterns linked to patients’ risk for long-term drug use (Harvard Chan School release)

Overcoming the opioid crisis (Harvard Chan School news)

The Opioid Crisis  (The Forum at Harvard Chan School)

Broad support for limiting opioid painkiller prescriptions (Harvard Chan School news)

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