Addicts gathered at UMass Memorial Health Care, the clinical partner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, for International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st. Here, five former users, in long-term recovery, shared their stories of being clean and sober.
As reported by WCVB News, one of the speakers, Robert Ryan, recalled his drug abuse, saying he felt he had no hope. “Overdose is preventable,” he said. “There was a point – incarcerated – that I realized I didn’t want to, you know, continue down this path in life.”
Ryan has now been clean and sober for four years and is a recovery coach at UMass Memorial.
International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is an annual international event aimed to reduce the stigma of drug-related death and increase overdose awareness. IOAD allows families and friends to grieve for those they’ve lost to drug overdose and enables former users to spread the message that overdose is preventable.
Other recovery coaches and speakers at the UMass Memorial event included Wendy Silverstein, Theresa Phelan, and John Abbott. Worcester County District Attorney Joe Early was also in attendance.
“Now that we’re going to get tighter on prescription monitoring, we have to be so much more vigilant, because what’s going to happen is the people with these addictions, if they’re not getting counseling, if they’re not getting help, they’re going to go to heroin on the street that’s potentially lethal,” Early said.
In saying that Massachusetts is tightening up on prescription monitoring, Early is referring to the recent investigation into drug prescription practices, which resulted in CVS Health Corp. reexamining its policies for dispensing opioids. As reported by ABC News on September 1st, CVS agreed to pay $795,000 to the state of Massachusetts.
The settlement between the drug store chain and the state of Massachusetts was reached in order to resolve allegations that, prior to March 2013, CVS failed to provide internet service to pharmacists at some locations. This is required to input patient prescription history into the online database of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program. Patient prescription history helps prevent the abuse of prescription medications, which can be addictive.
The investigation also showed that some CVS pharmacists, on occasion, didn’t use “sound professional judgment” in dispensing prescription drugs, according to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. In a Boston news conference on September 1, Healey stated that prescription drugs were dispensed by some CVS pharmacists following warnings not to dispense them to certain customers.
CVS said in a statement that the company understands the significance of the Massachusetts prescription database as a mechanism to recognize and prevent drug abuse, and they will now be requiring that their pharmacists consider all customer prescription history prior to dispensing prescription drugs. The company has also developed its pharmacist training and reexamined its prescription drug policies. CVS has around 350 pharmacies and employs 1,200 pharmacists in Massachusetts.
According to Healey, this is the first time the company has established a requirement for pharmacists to review customer prescription history in a state prescription drug database. $500,000 of the total paid by CVS to the state of Massachusetts will go to drug abuse programs.
Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, The CEO of The Dimock Center, where the announcement was made, confirmed that the settlement will serve as a significant first step in reinforcing important opioid prevention methods.
According to state officials, more than 1,500 people were killed by opioid overdoses in 2015. This epidemic has been clear for a while to former users, like Silverstein, who spoke at UMass Memorial, saying she’s happy there is now more awareness, help, and treatment options for drug addicts.