A Statement of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts on the Opioid Abuse Crisis

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference released March 2 the following statement signed by the four Catholic bishops of Massachusetts regarding the opioid abuse crisis in the state:

The abuse and misuse of opioids has become a national and local epidemic that has increasingly been felt in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in recent years. On average, four people lose their lives each day in this state, due to illegal and legal drug overdoses. It is a disturbing trend that must be stopped. In this year of Divine Mercy in the Catholic Church, we, the four Bishops of Massachusetts join health care professionals, law enforcement, first responders, elected officials and countless others affected by this epidemic in calling for a comprehensive plan to address this growing crisis.

Given the scope of the problem, we feel some degree of urgency to find a solution to this public health and policy crisis that has reached dangerous levels. The lives negatively impacted by this disaster represent all economic, age, gender or racial categories. The impact is far reaching, leading to the eventual breakdown of families, friendships, neighborhoods and communities.

The solution to this tragic problem is not easy to define; it will be even more difficult to implement. The enormity of the problem, however, calls for an immediate and sweeping response. As that response is crafted, we must be mindful that on one hand, medical professionals must continue to care for their patients by prescribing these powerful drugs for long and short term pain management. On the other hand, overuse by the patient, along with access to vast quantities of opioids by unintended users, often leads to abuse, addiction and death. We exhort health care providers to demand improved education within their own professional groups about the appropriate indications, prescriptions and use of opioid medications.

We must offer help, support and comfort to those who have formed an addiction to prescription pain killers, as well as to those individuals who have formed an addiction to illegal drugs. While new legislation alone will not solve the opioid crisis in Massachusetts, it is a critical step that must be taken soon. We urge the Governor and the legislature to continue their work on this legislation and to provide the necessary resources, human and fiscal, to implement comprehensive education and treatment services to address and correct this ever-growing crisis.

We encourage our sisters and brothers who are suffering addiction or the addiction of loved ones to turn to their faith community for support, counsel and compassion, and we pray that those most affected will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual help that they need.