Massachusetts Medical Society: Opioid Misuse

Opioid Misuse



Opioid misuse and overdose continues to be a national health crisis. Addiction to prescription opioids, heroin, and other synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is leading to overdose, death, and chronic health problems. More than 47,000 people died in 2017 due to opioid overdose. More than 1.7 million Americans are suffering from a substance use disorder related to opioids and an additional almost 700,000 Americans suffer from heroin use disorder.

New England has been hit hard by this crisis. One in 25 people in the Commonwealth has an opioid use disorder (OUD), according to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The Massachusetts DPH estimates that over 2,000 people in the Commonwealth died from an opioid-related overdose in 2019, and preliminary data suggest the number of such deaths increased in 2020. The percentage of these deaths caused by fentanyl has increased as deaths from heroin and prescription opioids have decreased.


Addressing the opioid overdose crisis has been the number one public health and advocacy priority of the Medical Society over the last several years. The Massachusetts Medical Society recognizes first and foremost that addiction, also referred to as severe substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing brain disease. The society continues to be at the forefront of addressing the devastating effects of this disease through education, advocacy, and legislative efforts.

The MMS Supports:

  • Expanding voluntary substance-use treatment services
  • Increased education of physicians and physicians-in-training about pain management, principles for safe opioid prescribing, prevention of substance use disorder, identification of substance use disorder, treatment of substance use disorder, and referring patients to appropriate treatment.
  • National efforts and local endeavors to reduce the cost of naloxone auto-injectors, including generic naloxone
  • Increased access to services for individuals with substance use disorder
  • Expanded overage for evidence-based non-opioid pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic pain management options
  • The elimination of prior authorization and other utilization management obstacles to evidence-based non-opioid pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic pain management options
  • Statewide implementation of accessible jail diversion programs for individuals with substance use
  • Access to the full spectrum of evidenced-based recovery support services, including medication-assisted treatments, for federal, state, and county inmates in Massachusetts with opioid use disorders
  • Expanded government funding to substance-use disorder treatment programs with the intention of expanding capacity
  • Studying the efficacy of supervised injection facilities
  • Affordable access to naloxone for all people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts


The Medical Society continues advocating to simplify and broaden access to treatments and therapies for substance use disorders while also striving to ensure maximal insurance coverage and minimal cost sharing for such treatments and therapies. Additionally, the Medical Society supports legislation that seeks to reduce the harms caused by opioid misuse.

  • MMS submitted testimony in support of legislation that offers critical alignment between court policies and best medical practices for persons with substance use disorder.
  • MMS testified in support of the findings of the Massachusetts Harm Reduction Commission and submitted testimony in support of harm reduction legislation.
  • MMS submitted testimony supporting legislation seeking to ensure that all clinical care provided to persons civilly committed for substance use disorder be treated at facilities under the control of the Department of Public Health or the Department of Mental Health.

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