When it comes to the opioid epidemic, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has memorized a lot of sad statistics.
He says 80 percent of all heroin users in the nation began on prescription opioids. On opioid deaths in general, he says they exceed auto and gun fatalities.
Markey has become a leading voice in the U.S. Senate - opposing the president's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, lashing out at the agency for refusing to listen to expert opinion on opioid abuse - and filing legislation relative to education, prevention and treatment. Markey insists it is a national problem.
Markey spent his morning getting a tour of the unique substance abuse and treatment facilities at Boston's Dimock Center, which houses detox, transitional and long-term housing and outpatient treatment programs for the addicted - all on one campus.
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That's where Markey met Rob Demeo, a recovering addict who got hooked on opioids following a car accident that disfigured his hand.
"I underwent, like, 12 surgeries," said Demeo. "My orthopaedic surgeon at the time prescribed me a very high dose of oxycodone."
Demeo stayed on the drug while he went through months of painful physical therapy - until one day, he says, "The doctor said it was to come off. I said, 'OK.' He just cut me off. There was no taper."
He started buying oxycodone on the street "until somebody introduced me to a needle that I started IV-ing the heroin. It was a cheaper option than the oxycodone on the street."
Demeo tried to become clean for years. At his 14th attempt at the Dimock, Demeo was successful and is now working at the Dimock, helping other addicts.
Markey says Congress is coming to a showdown on the issue. He says it's time for the U.S. Senate to take action so that people, like Demeo, don't get addcited in the first place.