BOSTON — Abuse of illicit drugs, including heroin, again posed a significant public health problem in Massachusetts last year with eastern Massachusetts posting a rate of emergency room visits involving drugs higher than that of any other major metropolitan region in the country, according to a new report.
The problems were particularly acute in Worcester, where lifetime heroin use was twice the state and national average, and on the South Shore, where researchers said one person died every eight days from an overdose.
The rate of emergency room visits in eastern Massachusetts for drugs surpassed that of much larger metropolitan areas in 2011, including New York, Chicago and Detroit, according to the report. The region also ranked first at a rate of four times the national average among metropolitan regions for emergency room visits involving heroin.
The report by the Massachusetts Health Council also found that violent crimes in Massachusetts were on the decline, with 8.5 percent fewer rapes, murders, aggravated assaults and other violent crimes reported from 2010 to 2011, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
Council researchers said the report is aimed at providing a reference for policy makers and health professionals as they weigh the state’s progress toward public health goals and areas where improvement may be needed. The report included statistics tracking reasons for energency room visits across the state, including Northeast Health Systems, which includes Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert Hospital.
“The 2012 report confirms a clear connection between each of these preventable health statistics and the affect they have on the state as a whole,” Susan Servais, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Council, said in a prepared statement. “We need to recommit ourselves to prevention policies if we hope to limit these devastating diseases. The trends show persistent health disparities between the poor and those of greater economic means and between racial and ethnically diverse populations. Public officials and health advocates have a responsibility to address these issues and help ensure better health quality for all our residents.”