There’s no such thing as an old junkie

There was a public service ad that ran in the United Kingdom a few years back that depicted elderly men and women using drugs in various forms – cooking up heroin in a spoon, shooting themselves and each other up, smoking crack in an aluminum foil pipe, snorting lines, and nodding off. The kicker to the commercial was, “There’s no such thing as an old junkie.”

That biting truth is beginning to reveal itself in the states as the number of opioid overdoses and deaths is rising at an alarming rate. Now that it’s hitting right where people live on Main Street, public officials are being pushed more aggressively to do something about it. And it’s no longer in the shadows as more families – angry at the disease of addiction, angry at government inertia, angry at their children for dying too young – vent their emotions in unvarnished obituaries.

State officials have revised the total of deaths last year attributed to drug overdoses. The previous tally had placed the number at 1,008 from heroin and opioid overdoses. The revised figure released Tuesday puts that number at an astounding 1,256, nearly 25 percent above the initial report. The total number of overdose deaths is 15 percent higher than the year before and nearly 60 percent above 2012.

State health officials said 2015 is on pace to exceed last year’s total, with 312 fatal overdoses through the first three months and the number climbing daily. Newspapers across the state chronicle overdose deaths in their region regularly, something that didn’t get much notice years ago when the perception was that those deaths were confined to the inner city where heroin and other cheap narcotics were easily bought.

But now the crisis is in their own backyards. Everett last year had 23 overdose deaths, four times higher than the year before. Officials at Whidden Hospital say they have at least one emergency room case a day from drug overdoses. Plymouth residents are reeling as the town has been hit with 13 overdose deaths so far this year and scores of people have been treated for overdoses. One 39-year-old woman who was revived twice earlier this year was found dead of an overdose on Monday. Gov. Charlie Baker visited the town a couple months ago to hear the horror stories about dealing with the addiction epidemic in the suburbs.

The spike has caused communities to put Narcan, the overdose-reversing drug, in their cruisers and ambulances. Even some parents, scared by their children’s habits, are buying it to keep handy. And some have used it.

No one, it seems, has the panacea. State Sen. John Keenan of Quincy has filed a bill that would allow patients to request partial fills of prescription narcotic painkillers as one way to stem the abuse. While some doctors are on board with the measure, health plan officials say it abrogates the physician’s orders and would be impossible to track or ration partial payments.

Baker has launched a multi-prong effort to deal with opioid addiction, forming a task force last year that gave him recommendations in June. Among the 65 recommendations from the group are to add 100 treatment beds by next year to the state’s 2,500 available beds; increase the availability of Narcan; improve public education and reduce the stigma of addiction; and expand treatment options, such as improving access to methadone and other non-narcotic alternatives to ease addict’s cravings.

All of it will take money and money can only come from Beacon Hill. But the constituency is growing, if Baker, a product of the suburbs, is any indication.

“I didn’t originally run for governor to fight opioid addiction, but simply put, it was everywhere I went,” Baker said earlier this summer. “I can’t remember the last time I was in a room of more than 20 people where someone didn’t have a story that directly connected them to this crisis.” He added what is becoming a more common refrain: “I have family that almost lost somebody to this.”




State officials have put on hold plans to demote several probation officers who failed a recent exam but who have charged that it was racially discriminatory. (Boston Globe)

Two groups plan to file petitions for ballot questions legalizing marijuana, but they have different visions of how pot should be regulated. (Boston Globe)

Charles Chieppo backs legislation that would allow the auditor to scrutinize corporate tax returns to make sure tax breaks are being used properly. (Governing)


Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone defends his support of so-called “sanctuary cities” statute and talks about his comments dissing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s position on immigration. Curtatone called the GOP presidential candidate “Gomer Pyle.” (Greater BostonLawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera says he is not interested in seeking sanctuary city status for his immigrant-rich community. (Boston Herald)

Local and state officials, including Attorney General Maura Healey, gather in Worcester to discuss strategies for stemming gun violence. (Telegram & Gazette)

Weymouth voters rejected a $6.5 million Proposition 2½ override that would have raised money to hire police, firefighters, and teachers and replace old high school textbooks. (Patriot Ledger)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to ban smokeless tobacco at parks and sports venues, including Fenway Park. (Boston Globe)

Mourners remembered a Dorchester mother of two who was killed last week by an errant bullet fired as she walked through a city park. (Boston Globe)


Peter O’Connor finds a gay marriage-Boston 2024 connection. (CommonWealth)


MGM Resorts International, which is building a casino in Springfield, goes to court to block efforts to grant the Connecticut Indian tribes the authority to open another casino on the Massachusetts border. (Masslive)


The New York Times revisits Ferguson, Missouri, on the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer and finds divided opinion on whether race relations have improved or the changes are just superficial.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose state will host Thursday night’s Fox News debate among the top 10 contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, has qualified for the final spot based on polling, edging out former Texas governor Rick Perry, who has been relegated to the second tier. (New York Times)

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush backtracks on his off-hand comment that spending $500 million on women’s health issues may be too much. (New York Times) Democratic rival Hillary Clinton immediately goes on the attack. (Time)

Two businesses fight the Massachusetts ban on corporate contributions. (Masslive)

Robert Scatamacchia, the longest-serving member of the Haverhill City Council, doesn’t plan to seek reelection in the wake of his arrest on charges related to the operation of his funeral home. (Eagle-Tribune)


Federal officials want fishermen in the region’s struggling groundfishing industry to underwrite the cost of monitors who make sure they stay within prescribed catch-limits, a cost that fishermen say could be the last straw for their teetering businesses. (Boston Globe)

New Balance and Berkshire Partners have acquired Canton-based Rockport Company, maker of the iconic Rockport shoes. (The Enterprise)

Condos are on tap for the waterfront parcel in Boston where the once famous, now shuttered, Anthony’s Pier 4 restaurant sits. (Boston Herald)

John Hancock wants to build a new 26-story tower in the Back Bay. (Boston Globe)

Wegmans plans to open a food store in the space previously occupied by JC Penny at the Natick Mall. (Metrowest Daily News)

More than 60 complaints have been lodged against a Dartmouth travel agency that customers say took their money for vacation trips and never booked the flights or accommodations. (Standard-Times)

Google is not likely to buy Twitter. (Re/Code) Google will probably buy Twitter. (Fortune)


Pioneer Institute’s Jim Stergios says we should use unemployment insurance benefits to provide vouchers for on-the-job training. (Boston Globe)

The Princeton Review, which ranks the nation’s colleges and universities on a variety of non-educational issues, including “Best Partying School,” rated UMass Amherst the second-best for campus food behind Bowdoin College in Maine. (The Republican)

A survey of Marshfield students finds an increase in the number of teens who say they were at a party where parents were aware there was underage drinking. (Patriot Ledger)


The Department of Public Health says mosquitoes in Swansea and Seekonk have tested positive for West Nile virus. (Herald News)


The Braintree Licensing Board tabled a proposal on rules for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft until the state takes up legislation to regulate the companies next month. (Patriot Ledger)

James Aloisi says it’s time to create Boston 3.0. (CommonWealth)

The mayors of Braintree and Leominster join the MassDOT board. (Associated Press)


Neil Angus of the US Green Building Council says going green can help Gateway City homeowners. (CommonWealth)

Supporters of a plan to sell off some of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to fund highway repairs say the oil bank is no longer needed now that the US is the world’s biggest producer of crude oil. (U.S. News & World Report)


A Herald editorial backs the outside review of criminal justice policies that the state is seeking. CommonWealth reported on the planned review earlier this week.

School officials in Hardwick say they repeatedly alerted state social workers to concerns about the 7-year-old boy now hospitalized when he was found emaciated and bruised in the care of his father, who was arrested on various abuse charges. (Boston Herald)

Jason Fleury, a Level 3 sex offender, is arrested in Hampton, Virginia, and charged with the murder of Jaimee Mendez nine months ago in Swampscott. (Salem News)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, whose jail has scores of empty beds that once housed illegal immigrants charged with crimes, says the federal government is giving undocumented aliens “three, four, five bites of the apple” before they face deportation. (Standard-Times)

Special delivery: A drone drops a package of heroin and marijuana into an Ohio prison yard. (Time)