Understanding The Opioid Epidemic  

Posted on September 2, 2021 by Rev. Pam Reidy under death, opioid epidemic
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Opioid-related deaths are tragic, there is no other word for it. The grief from such a loss is complicated and painful as sometimes families are unsure whether an overdose was accidental or intentional. As a funeral home it is always heart-rending for us to accompany these families through the funeral rites and bereavement process. For us, it has happened all too many times and so we join the challenge to understand and help put an end to this horrific epidemic.

Opioids include heroin, illicitly manufactured fentanyl, opioid-based prescription painkillers, and other unspecified opioids. “Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts increased by 5 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. In May of 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) posted month-by-month estimates for fatal opioid-related overdoses for all intents from October 2019 through March 2021. In 2020, there were 2,035 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths and DPH estimates that there will be an additional 66 to 70 deaths. In the first three months of 2021, there were 99 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths and DPH estimates that there will be an additional 368 to 447 deaths. Preliminary data from January to March 2021 show there were 507 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, an estimated 9 more deaths, which is a 1.9 percent increase compared to the first three months of 2020.” (https://www.mass.gov/doc/opioid-related-overdose-deaths-among-ma-residents-may-2021/download)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the increase in Opioid-overdose deaths in three waves:

  1. The first wave began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone) increasing since at least 19993.
  2. The second wave began in 2010, with rapid increases in overdose deaths   involving heroin4.
  3. The third wave began in 2013, with significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl5,6,7. The market for illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to change, and it can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.8


Although the American Medical Association identified addiction as a disease as early as 1990, too many people still view addiction as a character flaw, an inherent weakness. For us at Miles, we join the work of prevention to keep our families from this horrendous loss. We believe we must educate ourselves on the crisis, help to change attitudes about addiction, and care for those who suffer from addiction illnesses with compassion and competence. In whatever way you can, we implore you to join the fight against this epidemic. You might be saving the life of a member of your community, workplace, one of your children’s friends or a member of your own family.

We have a genuine and devastating epidemic of opiate abuse in this country, and it is of critical importance that this problem be addressed. But we must do so in a way that doesn’t cut off an effective (and often the only) treatment for the chronically ill, many of whom are able to function in this world at all only because of the small respite that responsible opiate use provides.”       (Michael Bihovsky)

For more information on the Epidemic in Massachusetts: https://rizema.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/mtf-opioid-report-final.pdf

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