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Record Heroin Deaths in Mass.

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The number of drug overdoses in Massachusetts has risen six-fold over the past 13 years, with narcotics now claiming more lives in the state than traffic accidents, the Boston Globe reported June 29.

Last year, 574 people died in drug-related incidents, compared to 521 traffic fatalities statewide. Experts blamed the trend on an influx of cheaper, purer heroin into Massachusetts; in some cases, a bag of heroin can now be purchased more cheaply than a six pack of beer. The drug problem is increasingly invading the middle and upper classes.

Nancy Paull, CEO of Stanley Street Treatment & Resources in Fall River agency, said, “Kids are buying OxyContin on the street. But it's quite expensive, and they quickly move to snorting heroin, and that moves to quickly injecting heroin.”

“We have a major crisis,” said Elizabeth Funk, president of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corporations of Massachusetts. “One would assume that society sooner, rather than later, would be attentive to the situation. We don't put these people on barges and ship them off to the middle of the ocean. They're not going away.”

Meanwhile, however, Massachusetts lawmakers have been cutting funding for addiction treatment programs, slashing $11 million from its treatment and prevention budget between 2001 and 2004. Statewide, the number of detoxification beds has fallen from about 1,000 to 420 as a result. This year, Gov. Mitt Romney pledged to restore $9.1 million to the state's drug budget.

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