Mass General: Addicts take opioids on hospital campus for quick intervention in case of OD

Intravenous opioid abusers are shooting up on the campus of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The tactic is one of harm reduction — addicts are putting themselves in position to receive medical care in case of an overdose, according to the Boston Herald.

While the MGH staff report that the number of drug abusers using on their campus is relatively low, there has been a measurable increase in the last 18 months. Parking garages and bathrooms seem to be the preferred areas. Some have tied restroom emergency pull cords to their bodies so alarms will sound if they fall after an overdose.

"They're well aware that every time they inject it's potentially their death, but the addiction is so powerful. It's their way of kind of mitigating the risk," Dawn Williamson, MSN, RN, emergency department nurse and clinical specialist in addiction at MGH, told the Herald.

According to data released in March by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, statewide opioid related hospital visits nearly doubled between 2007 and 2014.

MGH's medical campus is approximately 756,000 square feet. MGH security also patrols the nearby Wyndham Hotel, which expands the campus square footage to nearly 10 million. The large space can slow the time it takes to transport someone who has overdosed, so security employees are being trained to carry and administer the anti-overdose drug Narcan.

John Driscoll, the associate director of police, security and outside services at MGH, told the Herald 60 doses of Narcan will be purchased, half will be given to security staff and the rest will be distributed to various locations throughout the hospital. Each dose is approximately $40 to $50.

"It's less of a financial issue and more of a good practice issue...we've never at the hospital, or in our society, ever seen this type of overdose problem," Mr. Driscoll told the Herald.

The depths of the U.S. opioid epidemic stretch well beyond Massachusetts. Addressing the issue has proven a priority for the federal government. In March, the Food and Drug Administration issued new labeling requirements for opioid medications, the CDC put forth new guidelines for opioid prescription and a bipartisan bill authorizing programs to fight opioid abuse passed in the Senate.

More articles on opioid abuse: 
Extended-release opioid addiction medication prevents relapses, study finds  
Obama announces additional actions to combat nation's opioid epidemic: 3 things to know  
4 things to know about the case for supervised-injection centers 

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