Roundtable on Drug Addiction in the Merrimack Valley

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Diana has invited fellow lawmaker Elizabeth A. Malia (D-Jamaica Plain), chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, to hear from Merrimack Valley residents about the issue of drug addiction at a roundtable event on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Methuen Police Department’s Sanborn Hall.

Addressed during the event, which is free and open to the public, will be substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and recovery in the community. Persons with expertise on the topic are encouraged to participate in the roundtable as the needs of the Merrimack Valley and possible strategies to reduce drug addiction are considered.

Recent articles in local news publications have noted an increase in heroin usage in the Merrimack Valley, with a record-high number of obituaries and police logs noting a fatal overdose of the drug. Local arrests of out-of-state people purchasing heroin in Massachusetts are also at an all-time high. Experts on drug usage have noted a change in the profile of a typical heroin user, from a drug once associated with the urban poor to one that has grown in presence among young people in the suburbs.

Experts have attributed the rise in heroin use to the growing popularity of prescription painkillers, most notably the opioid oxycodone.

“I have had many discussions with residents who have been fighting for their loved ones suffering from drug addiction,” Diana said. “It is absolutely heartbreaking. These troubled families each have a story to tell and they share the hope that, by coming together in a concerted effort, we will be able to make a positive difference in this area. I look forward to hearing more from members of the community, many of who have faced drug addiction themselves, as we raise awareness and consider all possible ways to combat this growing problem.”

“Drug abuse is an issue across the Commonwealth,” said Malia. “Connecting with individuals and families in all areas of the State is important so that we, as legislators, know where the gaps in the system are and how to address them.”

“Bring experts together to raise awareness and make recovery options available,” said Phil Lahey, host of the cable access show “The Empty Chair,” of the goals of conducting the roundtable. “Educate parents, teachers and students about addiction.”

“Addiction does not discriminate,” said Jennifer Burns, a UMass Lowell graduate research assistant who helped to organize the roundtable. “As a community, addressing our substance use epidemic in a holistic manner will benefit individuals, families and society. Addiction is a multilevel social issues and public health concern. It is our responsibility to raise awareness and implement resources within our communities to combat this epidemic and create social change in behavior, attitudes and beliefs.”

Also confirmed for attendance at the roundtable are State Reps. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) and Frank Moran (D-Lawrence).