Guide to Massachusetts Addiction Landscape

Massachusetts, often called the Bay State, is a picturesque historical state situated on the East Coast of the United States. Overall, residents of Massachusetts struggle with drug and alcohol misuse and addiction at rates similar to the rest of the nation with a few exceptions.

This page will explore substance misuse in Massachusetts and addiction treatment options available to those in need of help.

Massachusetts Behavioral Health Statistics

Addiction is a disease with far-reaching implications. It impacts individuals, families, and the community at large. More than 80,000 Massachusetts residents were served by BSAS-contracted substance use programs during the 2017 fiscal year.

The 2020 Behavioral Health Barometer: Massachusetts reported that young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 binge drink alcohol at rates higher than national averages indicate.

Data collected for 2017-2019 suggest a past-month binge drinking rate of 45.9% for Massachusetts residents compared to a national past-month binge drinking rate of 35.4%, which may be partly attributed to the culture of binge drinking in universities.

Rates of illicit drug use disorder for Massachusetts residents aged 12 or older were a little higher than national averages as well. Between 2017-2019, 3.4% of Massachusetts residents struggled with drug use in the past year versus a national average of 2.9%.

Massachusetts also faces serious issues related to opioid misuse, addiction, and fatal overdose. From 2016 to 2020, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people in Massachusetts was approximately double the average in the United States.

Both addiction and mental health are considered to be behavioral health concerns, and they often go hand in hand. Behavioral healthcare is provided through both public and private providers in Massachusetts. Drug addiction rehab and mental health care is generally provided on a local level by community-based providers.

The Behavioral Health Barometer: Massachusetts states that treatment for mental health was slightly better in Massachusetts than the rest of the country:

  • A higher percentage of adult residents in Massachusetts received treatment for any mental illness (AMI) with 52.8% receiving care between 2017 and 2019; the national average was 43.6%.
  • A greater percentage of youths aged 12-17 battling major depressive episode (MDE) were treated with Massachusetts at 46.7% and the national average at 41.8%.

The Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren publishes that there are over 50 community health centers (CHCs) in over 300 locations in Massachusetts, serving one in seven residents with a full continuum of care for behavioral health needs.

Opioid Misuse and Overdose Issues in Massachusetts

The National Review reports that:

  • Close to one out of every four residents of Massachusetts has been directly impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic.
  • 25% of residents of the Bay State have lost a loved one to a fatal opioid overdose.
  • 70% of residents surveyed report the opioid crisis as one of the most serious problems the state faces.
  • Nearly everyone in Massachusetts knows someone battling opioid addiction.

The Massachusetts DPH published that 2,281 residents died from an opioid-related overdose in 2021, most of which involved the drug fentanyl (93% of confirmed opioid-related overdoses recorded where a toxicology screen was available).

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that has been invading the streets of the United States, especially the Eastern Seaboard recently. Over 50 times more potent than heroin and absorbable through skin contact, fentanyl is being manufactured in illicit laboratories, and is often used to “cut” and stretch other drugs, such as:

  • Heroin.
  • Cocaine.
  • Counterfeit prescription medications.

The 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment reported that Massachusetts had the 4th highest number of fentanyl reports in the United States for the calendar year (CY) 2019.

In 2017, the Massachusetts DPH reported that over half (52.8%) of all addiction treatment admissions to programs contracted under the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) cited heroin as the primary drug of use.

Opioid Misuse in Worcester

The city of Worcester has taken several actions to fight the opioid epidemic. While Worcester reports some of the highest numbers in opioid-related incidents involving emergency medical services (EMS), the city’s EMS incident rates have dropped over the last 3 years; going from 1,218 in 2020 down to 736 in 2022.

Opioid Overdose in Boston

As the largest city in Massachusetts, Boston also accounts for the largest share of opioid overdose deaths in the state. There has been a significant increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths in Boston since 2015. While 155 were recorded in 2015, there were 251 recorded in 2021.

Household Income and Drug Addiction in Massachusetts

While addiction is a disease that does not discriminate, it may be influenced by several socioeconomic factors, including employment status, living in areas of economic disadvantage, and household income.

As the Greater Worcester Community Health Assessment 2021 states, income can affect an individual’s life on all levels by impacting access to health care, food, housing, and more.

Below is a comparison of estimated median household incomes between 2015-2019 in Massachusetts and Worcester:

  • Massachusetts: $81,215
  • Worcester: $48,139

The number of people living in poverty also reflected a difference with Worcester reporting nearly 20% of its population as living in poverty while Massachusetts as a whole reported having slightly over 10%.

The same report found mental health and substance use to be leading health issues among Worcester residents, and recognized the long-term impact socioeconomic factors can have on individuals.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

There is some news to suggest that efforts to address the opioid crisis in Massachusetts may be working; opioid overdose deaths fell by 1.5% during the first 9 months of 2022.

Legislation aims to control prescription patterns of controlled painkillers in an effort to reduce opioid diversion and medication misuse.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that around 80% of people struggling with heroin use began by misusing prescription opioids. If prescription medications can be more tightly controlled and regulated, then perhaps use of other opioids such as heroin and illicit fentanyl will be prevented.

There are several things that leaders in Massachusetts are doing to combat opioid misuse and overdose. A few of these include:

  • Hosting a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP): This helps to track the dispensing of controlled prescription medications, alerting prescribers to potential concerns and misuse patterns. It also helps to crack down on “doctor shopping” and other methods of obtaining medications for recreational use.
  • Passing legislation, such as An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education, and Prevention: This law enacts a seven-day limit on new opioid prescriptions, improves the PMP, increases preventative educational measures statewide, and mandates drug disposal programs.
  • Providing prescription drop box locations and kiosks: These boxes and disposal sites are located all throughout the Commonwealth, allowing residents to dispose of unwanted prescription medications to keep them from being diverted and misused.
  • Forming the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition (MOAPC): This is a grant program funding local community-based coalitions, preventative programs, and educational services designed to reduce opioid misuse.
  • Passing a Good Samaritan law: This protects individuals who report an overdose from drug-related charges and also allows bystanders to administer naloxone to try and reverse an overdose.
  • Holding a standing order for naloxone dispensation: This allows local pharmacies to dispense naloxone to those impacted by opioid addiction who face potential opioid overdose.
  • Launching the Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) program: This trains individuals and first responders on the use of naloxone (Narcan) to help overturn an opioid overdose as well as provides information on how and where to obtain it.

According to the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program, prescriptions for opioid drugs in the state of Massachusetts have decreased about 48% when comparing the 3rd quarter of 2022 to the 1st quarter of 2015.

Coupled with decreasing opioid overdose fatalities, Massachusetts legislation and preventative efforts seem to be at least slightly turning the tide on opioid misuse in the Commonwealth.

Drug Courts and Mandated Treatment Programs

Massachusetts is one of 37 states where a person can have another involuntarily committed when they are concerned about their drug and/or alcohol use, WBUR publishes.

There are multiple addiction rehab centers in the state of Massachusetts where individuals can be sent for civil commitment under Section 35, including the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC) at Plymouth. This program provides treatment in a minimum-security facility where residents stay for 30-90 days, meeting with drug and alcohol use counselors and receiving addiction recovery services.

Massachusetts also operates both adult and juvenile drug courts as specialty courts designed to help individuals battling addiction who are arrested for drug-related and nonviolent offenses get treatment instead of facing prison or jail time.

When a person completes the mandated treatment program, they may be able to have their charges dropped or sentences reduced. Many times, crimes are committed due to a drug problem, and mandated treatment and diversion programs can manage the root of the issue.

Community-Based Addiction Resources

The Massachusetts BSAS, as a division of the DPH, provides oversight and licensing for providers and helps to design and implement substance use and addiction treatment services in the Commonwealth.

The Department of Mental Health (DMH) does the same for mental health treatment services across the state. The DMH has several offices throughout the Commonwealth, which include continuing care facilities, and community health centers (CHCs).

Both addiction and mental health services are offered based on where a person lives, often through community-based providers. Residents can use this table to find the local DMH office that supports their area.

The DMH Resource Guide also provides residents with current listings of providers. To find a local addiction treatment provider, Massachusetts residents can call the free and confidential Massachusetts Substance Abuse Helpline or use their web-based interactive tool.

State-regulated services can also be located using the national Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren publishes that treatment providers in Massachusetts offer the following services:

  • Acute treatment services (ATS), including detox and medical detox
  • Clinical stabilization services (CSS), step-down and post-detox
  • Structured outpatient addiction programs (SOAP)
  • Transitional support services (TSS)
  • Residential recovery homes
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), provided in both outpatient and inpatient settings

Substance use and addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services and programs are offered by nonprofit, private, public, and state-funded agencies and coalitions throughout Massachusetts. These include:

Different municipalities, regions, counties, and communities throughout the Commonwealth will also have community-based providers, coalitions, and agencies working to improve the wellbeing of their immediate neighborhoods with drug use and overdose education and prevention measures, addiction treatment programs, and recovery support services.

Drug Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts

If you or someone you love is in need of a drug addiction rehab in Massachusetts, help is available. AdCare addiction rehab centers are located throughout the Northeast with several locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Inpatient Drug Treatment in Massachusetts

Inpatient addiction treatment is offered at AdCare Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. During inpatient treatment, patients reside at the hospital and receive 24/7 medical care and attention.

Outpatient Drug Treatment in Massachusetts

AdCare also offers outpatient addiction treatment in Worcester, MA. A less intensive level of treatment than inpatient, outpatient or “day” treatment allows patients to attend rehab at the Massachusetts addiction rehab center multiple times a week while residing at home or at a sober living residence.

Please don’t wait to get help. Start the rehab admissions process today.

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AdCare has multiple locations throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island, making it easily accessible to most parts of New England. We offer an integrated system of care and have been helping individuals and families struggling with addiction for 45 years. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs in MA and RI or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.