Archive 2008 - 2019

It Just Gets Worse: Pill Addiction in Massachusetts

by Eve Pearce

Massachusetts faces a growing problem as more and more young people become hooked on painkillers and prescription drugs that they can find in their own medicine cabinets. These drugs can, in some cases, provide as a great a high as A-class drugs, like heroin, yet they lack much of the stigma attached to hard drugs. This helps the abuse of prescription drugs go under the radar, eluding the monitoring of parents and guardians, who are very much hell-bent of tackling and removing the threat of drug addiction. This is one of the things that has led to the first ever national prescription drug take-back to inform people of the dangers of prescription drug abuse and to remove unnecessary ones from people's medicine cabinets.
The take-back was also extremely useful in refining the process of drug removal from homes. Many people end up throwing away any illegal or potentially-dangerous drugs that they find in the trash or flushing them down the toilet. This can, however, cause even more problems as some of the toxic elements of the drugs can then end up contaminating the local water supply. The success of the take-back will ultimately be measured on the effect it has on people's awareness of the dangers of painkillers and prescriptive drug abuse in the long run.

A growing problem.

The statistics on the topic are incredibly worrying. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between the years 2007 and 2009, research shows that at least 20% of all 12th grade high-schoolers had used opioid painkillers, such as codeine, OxyContin and morphine at least once in their lives. What is worrying is that over 12% had used them without the instruction of a medical professional. This 12% is the worrying section because it is from using such drugs without the instruction of a doctor that the problems seem to stem. Users who had first taken such drugs without the consent of a medical professional were four times more likely than non-users to go on to use these drugs to get high, between four and five times more likely to purchase the drugs from dealers or friends and between seven and nine times more likely to snort such drugs through the nose. In their findings, Michigan-New England researchers also found that, between the years 2002 and 2006, 70% of high-school senior users had used these drugs in tandem with other drugs, such as alcohol and marijuana. There are, of course, measures by which people can fight their drug abuse, starting with visiting institutions like the Center for Addiction Medicine (CAM) at the Massachusetts General Hospital. It provides a full range of care and useful information for patients on how to fight their addictions to painkillers and even runs a Clinical Research Program, designed to develop further ways to help patients through their addiction.

These measures need to be utilized quicker rather than later as the trend of drug abuse problems in Holliston grows ever more worrying. As recently as the last few years, there have been a number of alarming drug-related incidents, including an OUI charge in 2010 for Holliston man, James Sakkos, who crashed his car whilst under the influence of illegal drugs. Sakkos had been using certain central nervous system stimulators, which caused him to recklessly drive his Ferrari into a parked car. Further to this, in February 2011, Newton firefighter, Richard A. Desimone, was charged with threatening to blow up the house of a Holliston 19 year-old, who was selling drugs for him. This teenager was, like many others in the Holliston and Massachusetts area, dealing prescription drugs on behalf of Desimone but, according to, still ended up owing him $800, which Desimone then threatened to kill him for if the 19 year-old didn't provide him with reimbursement. Most recently, in July of last year, two men were chased down by police and then, as Milford Daily News reports, arrested for the possession of illegal prescription drugs (Oxycodone) and heroin. This kind of worrying drug-related behaviour is not something that cannot be ignored in Holliston and, moreover, not something that can be simply explained by problems associated with poverty or the inner city.

Drug abuse in suburbia

Another surprising statistic is the fact that the figure for nonmedical use of such drugs amongst white youths (16%) is much higher than the figures amongst Hispanic (6%) or African-American youths (4%). The founder of a support group for the families of victims of pill addiction in Massachusetts called "Learn to Cope" concurs with the fact that prescriptive drug addiction is cropping up in the very places where one would never expect to look. She makes the point, in an interview with, that very often it is in suburban families, where such an emphasis has been placed on making sure that children don't fall victim to illegal drug abuse, that kids have actually got a hold of painkillers and prescriptive drugs and become addicted to these instead. This has proved incredibly dangerous because of the way that such prescriptive drugs have then served as gateway drugs for A-class drugs, such as heroin. Michael Boticelli, Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Department's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, says that "heroin dealers have actually targeted parts of the country where they have seen high prescription drug issues as a market opportunity, quite honestly, to transition people to heroin."

Clearly there is a major problem with prescriptive drug abuse amongst the nation's young adults. What must be understood, however, is that this particular drug abuse endemic cannot simply be blamed on the normal culprits, such as poverty or gang culture. Where the problem requires tackling most, in this instance, is in fact in the affluent, suburban areas that can actually afford medicine cabinets of expensive yet potentially dangerous prescriptive drugs. This is the only way to stop the growing problem of pill addiction in Massachusetts.

Eve Pearce is a free lance writer and has prepared this article specifically for