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The Opioid Epidemic, Preventative Measures, Results, Resources, Alcohol Laws and Marijuana Laws

This site will be your guide to understanding the devasting impact of the opioid epidemic and what is being done to fight it. We will provide you with statistics and resources that will help you understand what is happening and how you can help those struggling. Addiction is a widespread issue throughout the state of Massachusetts, having helpful resources at your fingertips can be extremely beneficial. We will help you understand the marijuana and alcohol laws that are in effect in Massachusetts. If you or someone you care about are currently struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, please visitMassachusetts medical detox locator. for help finding a detox facility.

The Opioid Epidemic

Massachusetts is currently experiencing an epidemic of opioid-related overdose and death at rates comparable to the highest among the northeastern United States. The opioid-related death rate in Massachusetts surpassed the national average, with a sharp rise in the last two years. Prior data shows that opioid-related deaths in the state were more than four times higher in 2015 than in 2000. This recent rate of increase is many times faster than anything seen in the United States before. In 2013–2014, opioid-related deaths occurred in two-thirds of the cities and towns in Massachusetts.

Since 2000, the number of opioids prescribed to residents of Massachusetts has increased roughly 7% annually. In 2015, nearly one in six Massachusetts residents obtained an opioid prescription from a healthcare provider. In a startling statistic, in 2016, only about 1 in 12 of those who died had an opioid prescription in the month before their death.

A State in the Midst of an Opioid Crisis

The Center for Disease Control found that in 2013, opioid use, dependence and overdoses cost the U.S. $78.5 billion in 2013, and a breakdown of the drug epidemic estimate from the CDC suggests Massachusetts’ economic burden was about $10 billion in 2016. Opioid deaths have risen dramatically since 2013. The $78.5 billion figure is based solely on the costs of addiction to prescription opioids and does not include costs tied to heroin or fentanyl. Unfortunately, the latter has become the leading cause of death Massachusetts (and other states) so all figures are under-reported. The CDC is in the process of updating its burden assessment to reflect more recent addiction and overdose data, and is planning on taking into account losses associated with street drugs. Also according to the CDC, in 2013, Massachusetts had 2.2 percent of the nation’s prescription overdose deaths. Massachusetts’ share of the $78.5 billion figure could actually be in the range of $1.7 billion. Since the 2013 report, overdose deaths in the state have risen more than six-fold, totaling 1,990. Incidentally, Massachusetts does not have any counties with the highest overlap between opioid prescribing and a shrinking workforce.

Governor Baker says seeing children come in to visit parents after an overdose or hearing stories of children finding a parent passed out, perhaps dead, have become all too common. He wonders how much the opioid epidemic will cost the next generation who may deal with PTSD, depression and other physical health problems. One county in Massachusetts told Reuters its child services budget has nearly doubled in five years as children of parents addicted to opioids flood the system.

Prescription Monitoring in Massachusetts

The governor is in the process of billing new legislation as a follow-up to 2016’s STEP Act (Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention). STEP Act legislation included measures that created tools for tracking opioid prescriptions and required substance abuse evaluations be offered to anyone treated for an opioid overdose. The new bills being worked on includes:
Medical professionals or police officers could send a patient to a treatment facility, which would be required to try to engage the patient in a 72-hour treatment. Involuntary treatment could also be ordered by a court.
Creating state oversight authority where treatment facilities will have to prove that they meet certain requirements before being licensed by the state.

"STEP Act legislation included measures that created tools for tracking opioid prescriptions and required substance abuse evaluations be offered to anyone treated for an opioid overdose."

Establishes a professional credential for recovery coaches.
Authorizing every pharmacy in the state to dispense naloxone.
Requires all prescribers to convert to secure, electronic prescriptions instead of oral or paper orders.
Sets the path for developing penalties for prescribers who violate the state ban on initial prescriptions of opioids including a supply for more than seven days.
Creates a trust fund to finance educational and intervention programs and to support the creation of systems designed to identify students who are at risk. Baker is asking for $2 million for this fund.

Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2015, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Baker in August 2015. The new law permitted the analysis of different government data sets to guide policy decisions and to better understand the opioid epidemic. Recently, a report highlighting the current state of the crisis was released as part of this effort. In addition to providing insights into the opioid crisis by answering seven key questions, this project demonstrates how organizations both public and private can collaborate to answer complex public-health questions. This model of cooperative data analysis has the potential to become the standard in Massachusetts.

"This model of cooperative data analysis has the potential to become the standard in Massachusetts"

Prescription drug monitoring programs, prescription drug take back days, safe opioid prescribing guidelines, and education programs all seek to reduce opioid misuse and/or diversion to people who do not have prescriptions. While these strategies appear promising, none have been demonstrated in clinical trials or controlled observational studies. Massachusetts overdose education and nasal naloxone distribution programs trained thousands of people who use opioids and their families, friends, and social service providers to prevent, recognize, and respond to overdoses, resulting in hundreds of reported rescue attempts.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health OEND program database collects information from program questionnaires collected at both enrollment and whenever an enrollee requests an additional naloxone kit. Data from the Massachusetts prescription drug monitoring program adjusts preventative measures and funding to adjust for opioid prescriptions to “doctor shoppers” (individuals who had schedule II opioid prescriptions from four or more prescribers and filled prescriptions at four or more pharmacies in a 12 month period). Massachusetts researchers calculated the proportion of schedule II opioid prescriptions dispensed to doctor shoppers per total opioid prescriptions for each community-year stratum and targets problem doctors and details demographics at risk.

"Massachusetts researchers calculated the proportion of schedule II opioid prescriptions dispensed to doctor shoppers per total opioid prescriptions for each community-year stratum and targets problem doctors and details demographics at risk."

Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined by an estimated 10% the first nine months of 2017 compared to the first nine months of 2016. A state report shows trend lines are moving in the right direction as the state of Massachusetts works to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic. More specifically, approximately 271,000 people in The state administration has increased annual spending for substance misuse prevention and treatment by 50 percent and expanded to residential treatment and evidence-based care for the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Massachusetts Opioid Resources

The following links are helpful resources regarding the opioid epidemic. They include resources for the public, useful links, information about drug monitoring in Massachusetts, the dangers of opioids, and what the state is doing to combat the health crisis. The state has added more than 600 adult substance-use disorder treatment beds since January 2015 and widely expanded the availability of naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. However, there is a lot more education required for the harm befalling Massachusetts to slide back into manageable numbers.

Find a Medical Detox by City

Thankfully, there are dozens of medically assisted detox programs in Massachusetts. Overcoming addiction or abuse issues without professional assistance is extremely challenging. The physical and mental withdrawals can be excruciating, there is no reason to attempt to quit cold turkey. Medically assisted detox is available, here are some local resources. If you are having trouble finding a detox facility that meets your specific needs, give us a call today. We will provide you with a free evaluation and consultation, hopefully making the process of entering a detox program a bit less stressful.

Massachusetts Alcohol Laws

Drinking age: 21 years to purchase and/or consume alcohol

Serving age: To sell packaged alcohol you must 18 years old. To bar-tend, you must be 21 years old. You must be 18 years or older to wait tables in restaurant that is consuming alcohol.

"Wine and liquor can be sold from liquor and grocery stores every day from 10am – 11pm"

Alcohol serving hours:

Monday-Sunday Liquor may be sold 7am-2am. Laws can vary by city or county, so be sure to check with your local jurisdiction for more accurate information. Happy Hour specials are illegal in Massachusetts.

Where is alcohol sold?:
Wine and liquor can be sold from liquor and grocery stores every day from 10am – 11pm, and on Sundays from 10am – 9pm.

Dry Counties:
There are no legally dry counties in Massachusetts

Marijuana Laws Massachusetts


Limited medical marijuana is allowed Massachusetts and small amounts have been decriminalized. The possession of major quantities of marijuana can bring jail time and fines.

Less than 8oz:

This is a civil penalty which carries a small fine for the first offense, and slightly larger fine for a subsequent offense. If you are determined to be selling or trafficking marijuana, the second offense is a felony. This carries 1-6 years in state prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

8 oz – 5 lbs:

This is a felony and carries 1-5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. A subsequent offense is also felony but carries an additional 5-10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.

5 lbs or more:

This is a felony and the first offense carries 5-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A subsequent offense carries 10-20 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.

Selling to minor:

Selling marijuana to minor is always a felony and carries 5-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The subsequent offense can carry 10-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


Possession of marijuana paraphernalia is Connecticut is a civil penalty and carries a $150 fine.