Opioid fix

15Mar18

I wanted to know what could be done about the opioid epidemic, so I decided to seek out some public policy experts. Unfortunately, Wakefield High School was closed yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Board of Selectmen in Wakefield, MA is doing something. They have decided that the town will join hundreds of municipalities nationwide in filing lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that are said to be fueling the nation’s drug abuse crisis.

That’s fine as far as it goes. But prescription opioids are just the tip of the addiction iceberg. The real killers are the street drugs like heroin and, increasingly, fentanyl.

It’s going to take a lot more to solve the opioid crisis than forcing chronic pain sufferers to visit the pharmacy more often for smaller quantities of Percocet.

These legal, prescription painkillers like Oxycodone and Vicodin have been widely blamed for ushering in the drug crisis. But prescribing of those drugs has been falling since 2011 due to policies by government, medical and law enforcement officials designed to reverse years of overprescribing.

The majority of opioid deaths now involve illegal drugs, especially the ultra-potent fentanyl. Deaths from fentanyl and related drugs like heroin doubled in 2016, to more than 19,000, dragging down Americans’ life expectancy for the second year in a row.

According to a report in the July 27, 2017 Boston Globe, “Last year, opioids were linked to 2,069 deaths in Massachusetts, a 15 percent increase from the year before. Fentanyl was found in 69 percent of those deaths in which a toxicology screen was available.”

That same Globe story says that “Mexican cartels are delivering vast quantities of the inexpensive and powerful synthetic drug fentanyl to New England, causing the highest rate of fentanyl-related deaths in the nation.”

As early as 2001, the US Department of Justice reported that, “In Greater Boston, the state’s primary regional distribution center, Colombian Drug Trafficking Organizations operate at the highest levels of the heroin trade, and Dominican trafficking organizations and distribution groups are believed to constitute 80 to 90 percent of the middle and lower levels.”

Not much has changed in the ensuing 17 years, according to another Boston Globe story from last July.

“In Lawrence, a major gateway for the fentanyl that reaches New Hampshire and Maine, distribution is handled primarily by Dominicans — many in the country illegally — who have established a working relationship with the cartels.”

A 2017 study commissioned by the Boston Police Department found that “The majority of individuals arrested last year for Class A drug trafficking in the city of Boston were not U.S. citizens and most of those non-citizens were Dominican foreign nationals.” The report goes on to say that the data “would suggest that heroin trafficking in Boston is largely controlled by Dominican drug organizations.”

Any serious attempt to get a handle on the epidemic of opioid addiction will have to involve securing the southern border and incarcerating or deporting the distributors, most of whom are here illegally. Unfortunately, in some quarters there is very little appetite for those solutions, so they go after doctors and the drug companies instead.

I wonder how many so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials, even when it comes to illegal alien drug dealers, will be participating in these class action suits against the pharmaceutical companies.

It would also be interesting to know how many cities and states that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana will be joining these lawsuits. What kind of message is being sent when a state or a community sanctions the sale or use of a recreational drug, and then sues the manufacturers of a medical one?

Wakefield at least has been unwavering on the latter score. The Board of Selectmen has consistently opposed the legalization of pot or its sale within the town. Wakefield voters have also opposed the legalization or sale of marijuana every time they’ve had an opportunity to vote on the issue.

So, by all means go after the pharmaceutical companies and crooked doctors overprescribing prescription painkillers.

But to really make a dent in opioid deaths it’s going to mean doing the difficult work of choking off the foreign supply of heroin and fentanyl and eliminating the distributors, including illegal aliens.

If you’re not willing to attack it on all fronts, then you’re not really serious about fixing the problem of opioid addiction.

[This column originally appeared in the March 15, Wakefield Daily Item.]

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Since when have one-sided political protests been sanctioned during class time in Wakefield Public Schools?

Next Wednesday at 10 a.m., at least some students plan to “walk out” of Wakefield Memorial High School “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”

The school administration plans to allow this protest during school hours.

The flyers being sent around on social media by the national organizers of this March 14 protest openly call for legislation to further restrict guns. The online flyer for the local WMHS walkout explicitly states that the purpose of the protest is to “advocate gun control.”

However you slice it, that is a political stand and this is a political protest from top to bottom, from the national level down to the local level.

Of course students are emotionally upset over the school massacre in Parkland, Florida several weeks ago. Everyone is. But this is not an emotional gesture. This isn’t a moment of silence before class for the victims. It’s not an after-school prayer vigil (God forbid) for those who died.

I figured out that such thoughtful gestures were off the table after I saw that the national protest organizers chose to mock those who offer their thoughts and prayers in the wake of these kinds of horrific events.

The tone of the flyer is all the evidence you need that this is a purely political protest. In the wake of the killings, the derision directed toward those offering “thoughts and prayers” for victims has come from one side, and one side only, of the political spectrum.

This is a clear political protest with a clear political strategy and a clear political objective.

Someone can refresh my memory, but if political protests have been sanctioned in Wakefield Public Schools during school hours before this, I don’t remember any.

There are differing views on what should be done about gun violence. Calling for more anti-gun legislation is only one approach. It is the only viewpoint that will be represented in next week’s protest, which has at least the tacit blessing of the school administration. An email sent out from the administration makes that much clear.

“While there will be no disciplinary consequences associated with students walking out on the 14th for this orderly event,” the email states, “other actions outside of this event may be subject to discipline.”

One wonders if such a hands-off approach would be taken with regard to other kinds of political protest. Would a group of students who wanted to stage an orderly walkout to protest gender-neutral bathrooms be accorded the same forbearance?

The email from the administration says that, “No student should feel pressured or coerced to participate in the walkout.” I hope that’s the case. No kid should be told by another student that if he doesn’t participate he “doesn’t care about dead children.”

Gun control in the United States is a complex issue and there are many thoughtful opinions on all sides of the political spectrum. How many of these opposing viewpoints have students been exposed to?

Like it or not, the right to bear arms is still in the United States Constitution. I wonder how many students really understand how high a bar must be met before a Constitutional right can be repealed.

Regardless of how bright and “woke” our students are, we generally don’t look to them to set school policy, much less public policy. (This is the generation that gave us the Tide Pod Challenge, after all.)

Sadly, however, this kind of activism will probably be seen as a plus on college applications. (The protesting, not the noshing on Tide Pods.)

However ill-advised, it looks like next Thursday’s student protest/walkout will happen. But it sets a bad precedent.

Let’s hope that the administration meant it when it said that “other actions outside of this event may be subject to discipline.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.

[This column originally appeared in the March 8, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]


That’s it. I’m never going on vacation again.

Last September, while I was in France for two weeks, the Board of Selectmen voted to end a 400-year tradition and start calling themselves the “Town Council.”

Now, I come back on Tuesday from four days in Florida only to learn that town officials have completely changed the way people vote.

Clearly, they cannot be left alone for a minute.

On Monday, while I was dining al fresco at Harpoon Harry’s in Punta Gorda, the Board of Selectmen was voting to do away with neighborhood polling places. After the April Town Election, everyone will vote at one central location, namely Galvin University.
Continue reading ‘Election central’


I’m glad the town didn’t shell out the $20,000 it cost for the expert consultant to tell us that power lines don’t cause cancer. To their credit, the selectmen stuck National Grid with the bill for Dr. Robert Kavet’s report.

At a well-attended public hearing last November, many residents raised the old specter of electromagnetic fields from transmission lines causing leukemia and other cancers. The hearing was on National Grid’s proposal to run 3.5 miles of underground transmission line through Wakefield as part of a larger Woburn-to-Wakefield project.

So, the town got National Grid to fork over 20 grand for an independent expert consultant to analyze on behalf of the town the health and safety impacts of the transmission line.

Some may think that $20,000 is a small price to put people’s minds at ease. Maybe so, especially if somebody else is paying.
Continue reading ‘Power to the people’


Marijuana has been back in the news lately, but really, when has it not been in the news over the last several years?

The latest headlines have pot users in a panic – and not the kind that comes from ingesting one too many brownies. No, this time it’s like, real, man. The Feds are talking about bringing prohibition back! I need a bong hit just thinking about it.

Try to have some compassion. The last couple of years have not been easy for the Cannabis Community. Ever since Massachusetts voters legalized the bud for recreational use in November of 2016, it’s been one crisis after another.

Less than two months after the wise voters approved a law that would allow legal retail sale of weed beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, those fascists in the Massachusetts Legislature met behind closed doors and pushed the date back to July 1, 2018.
Continue reading ‘Budding confusion’


By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD – She’s done it again.

For the second year in a row, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl and for the second straight year local businesswoman and Patriots super fan Danielle Resha has scored free tickets to the big game. She’ll be in the stands in Minneapolis on Sunday, Feb. 4 when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

This year’s tickets come courtesy of the Bose Corporation, who also sent a video crew to Wakefield to film a promo featuring Resha and her dog, Brady Omelett.
Continue reading ‘Danielle Resha heading for the Super Bowl – again!’


By MARK SARDELLA

CONCORD — If, like me, you enjoy stories in which everyone is despicable, David Mamet’s testosterone-fueled Glengarry Glen Ross is hard to beat. And under the direction of Wakefield native Nancy Curran Willis, these dishonorable characters are brought to vivid life by a strong cast at The Umbrella in Concord.

Set mainly in a Chicago real estate office, the seven male characters are agents engaged in selling crappy properties to unwitting, vulnerable buyers. Needless to say, the agents are, to a man, desperate, unethical and committed to “closing” at all costs, even if it means stabbing each other in the back.
Continue reading ‘‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ sizzles at The Umbrella’



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