In Massachusetts, over 2000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2019. At a rate of 29 deaths per 100,000 people, this is nearly double the national average of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
Over the last 2 years, heroin deaths decreased by 25%. Fatal overdoses from prescriptions stayed about the same. But fentanyl-related deaths skyrocketed from 68 deaths in 2012 to 1,649 deaths in 2017. These deaths happen all over the state, but the following cities have the highest number of overdose deaths in Massachusetts.
In 2019, 181 Boston residents died from opioid overdoses. The city had nearly twice as many fatal overdoses as any other city in Massachusetts. However, this is not surprising because Boston has significantly more residents than other cities in this state.
In fact, the town is over three times larger than the state’s 2nd largest city Worcester. Boston is located in Suffolk County, and per capita, the overdose rate in this county is 26.88 per 100,000 people, making this county 9th in the state for overdoses.
In Worcester, there were 97 fatal overdoses in 2019. This is the second highest number of deaths in the state, and it also represents one of the highest per capita death rates. The surrounding county of Worcester has the 4th highest rate of opioid deaths per capita. In this county, there were 34.06 deaths per 100,000 people.
Exactly 80 Springfield residents died from fatal overdoses in 2019. Because Springfield is the third-largest city in Massachusetts, this number reflects the city’s population.
Based on per capita deaths, Springfield is one of the very worst places in the state for opioid abuse. The town sits in Hampden County where the death rate is 44.22 per 100,000 people. This is the highest rate for the state, and it is over 3 times the national opioid overdose rate.
Hampden County also has one of the highest rates of opioid prescriptions in the state. In 2019, 4.5% of residents received a prescription for opioids. Based on that number, this county is tied for 2nd place compared to everywhere else in the state. Nationwide, high rates of opioid prescriptions correlate with high rates of abuse and overdoses.
Located in Middlesex County, Lowell had the 4th highest number of fatal overdoses in Massachusetts. In 2019, 65 residents died from opioid overdoses. However, its county ranked just 13th in the state with a rate of 20.13 fatalities per 100,000 residents.
5. Fall River
In Fall River, 55 residents fatally overdosed on opioids in 2019. Although this city ranks 5th for these deaths, it only has the 10th highest population in the state. Fall River is in Bristol County, and this area has the 2nd highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses in the state. Annually, there are 39.01 deaths per 100,000 residents.
6. New Bedford
Just behind Fall River, New Bedford had 54 opioid overdoses in 2019. This city is also located in Bristol County, and tragically, as indicated above, this area has a shocking number of deadly overdoses per capita.
With 51 fatal overdoses in 2019, Lynn takes 7th place in the state, but again, if you look at the numbers for the county, this area has the 3rd highest rate of overdose deaths in Massachusetts. In Essex County, there were 35.16 fatal overdoses per 100,000 residents.
Also located in Essex County, Lawrence had a significant number of deaths from opioids. In 2019, 50 Lawrence residents overdosed on these drugs.
Sadly, many addicts face criminal penalties related to their opioid uses, and they often can’t get treatment for addiction in prison. However, changes are on the horizon in this county.
For example, in 2018, a judge ruled that the Essex County jail must provide a prisoner with methadone. This medication helps people to stay off opioids and reduces their chances of a fatal overdose. At the time of the ruling, there were no prisons in the state offering this medication to prisoners.
The lawyers argued that withholding the medication violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, and that it was cruel and unusual punishment which is banned by the 8th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Quincy, MA ranks 9th with 39 deaths in 2019. This town is in Norfolk County, which has 24.1 fatal opioid overdoses per 100,000 residents. This is the 10th highest rate in the state.
10. Brockton and Taunton
Brockton and Taunton tie for 10th place. Both of these cities lost 35 residents to fatal overdose deaths in 2019. Brockton sits in Plymouth, which has the 8th highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses with 29.53 deaths per 100,000 residents. Taunton is in Bristol County, and as noted above, the county has the 2nd highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses.
If you live in any of these cities or anywhere else in Massachusetts, you can get help. To learn about treatment for addiction, contact a local treatment center. They can talk with you about your addiction and help you find the right resources.
- Massachusetts Health Policy Forum. (n.d.). Addressing the opioid crisis in small and rural communities in western Massachusetts.
- Most Mass. counties have among the highest rates of dispensing overdose-reversal drug. (2019, August 7)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, March 29). Massachusetts opioid summary.
- Number of opioid-related overdose deaths, all intents by city/town 2014-2018. (n.d.).
- Opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts down 5% from 2016 peak. (2020, February 12).
- Walters, Q. (2018, November 27). Judge rules Essex County jail must give man methadone for opioid addiction.