A new study estimates that 4.6 percent of Massachusetts residents had an opioid disorder in 2015.
The figure confirms earlier estimates, but is also significantly higher than the national average – something that the author says is more A Comprehensive Method for Identifying People
"You can not exist without knowing people", said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease doctor and researcher at the Boston Medical Center and lead author of the study. "This is a way to put a number on the problem."
The study was published online on Thursday by American Journal of Public Health .
Nationally, the commonly used estimate for the number of opiate addicts is about 1
However, a report from Massachusetts's Executive Office of Health and Human Services last year gave a similar estimate that over 4 percent of state dwellers in 2015 had an opioid disorder.
Barocas' study examined the data from 2011 to 2015 and found that the opioid use disorder increased from 2.72 percent to 4.6 percent during this period
The analysis was made possible by a new linked database, Massachusetts launched in 2015 in response to the opioid epidemic. This database, maintained by state health authorities, links data from 16 different sources of information about individuals.
Most previous studies were based on a single database that generally covered health insurance claims covering hospitalization and outpatient treatment. This database is able to capture a wider range of people, including ambulance travels, birth and death records and prescriptions.
Researchers used mathematical models to estimate the population of people with opioid use disorders who had no contact with the healthcare system.
Barocas said there is no way to know for certain whether other states are underpinning people with substance. Use problems or if the number in Massachusetts is unusually high. He said the numbers should be used to make decisions about how much money is being spent on fighting dependency and where the money should go.
In the study, the data were broken down by age and district. The largest increase in addiction prevalence was found in young people aged 11 to 25 years. In this age group, the number of people with substance disorder increased from an estimated 5,100 in 2011 to 23,000 in 2015.
It was also found a higher addiction prevalence in rural areas. The highest rates of addiction were in the districts of Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden and Barnstable, with more than 5 percent of the population of each district having a substance disorder.
Barocas speculated that there are a lot of heroin and fentanyl, and counties tend to have fewer treatment providers.
Massachusetts politicians have focused on opioid dependence in recent years amid a growing epidemic of overdose deaths. Lawmakers have passed three important addiction calculation laws since 2014.
Addiction has also come up in the governors race where Governor Charlie Baker published a message on Thursday featuring the father of a young man who died of an opioid overdose.