The Data That Saves Lives

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For four dollars, anyone can buy a bag of heroin in a town five minutes from my school. Prescription cousins of heroin, like Oxycontin and Vicodin, have been over-prescribed for decades. But as the war on drugs has progressed, a crackdown on prescription drugs has led to higher usage of harder drugs, like heroin, in accordance with Richard Cowan’s Iron Law of Prohibition. Heroin is a very potent drug, and doesn’t come in specific concentrations or milligram amounts, which makes overdose extremely likely.

“The DPH’s inaction shows lethargy and indifference to a massive public health crisis in our community." That quote was given to a reporter six months ago by my county’s sheriff. I live in Franklin County, Massachusetts, one region bearing the brunt of the nationwide opiate pandemic. And in the state's poorest county, the Department of Public Health has failed to release statistics on the number of overdoses for five years, statistics which could lead to better funding, strategy, and treatment. The lack of data shocked me. The DPH could provide the exact number of flu patients by the hour, but had absolutely no data on the number of overdoses. The problem seemed so meaningful, so in need of a functional solution. And yet there...

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