Preventing opiate abuse starts with kids, says doctor

By Georgia Sparling | Sep 22, 2016
Photo by: Georgia Sparling Dr. Tom Bozzo of Mattapoisett speaks about opiate abuse at the Mattapoisett Congregational Church.

Mattapoisett — “Appreciate how quickly a powerful addiction to opiates can develop.” And “Speak to your kids.”

Those two phrases were Dr. Tom Bozzo’s refrain as he spoke about opiate abuse and how parents can protect their kids from addiction.

The Mattapoisett Congregational Church invited Bozzo, a member of the New Bedford-based Physicians to Prevent Opiate Abuse and a Mattapoisett resident, to speak on Thursday night.

Bozzo works with opiate addicts, and said he treats people of all ages who became addicted to drugs because they didn’t realize how easily it could happen. And his message was clear: Prevention is key.

“Nobody really thinks it’s going to be their kid who has a problem,” said Bozzo. But, “It’s a huge swath of people who are at risk.”

The multi-layered problem is, in part, due to a shift in philosophy at the medical level that said, “We’ve under treated pain.” Once pills were on the market, touted as having a low risk for addiction, many doctors began over prescribing them.

According to Bozzo, the circumstances became the “perfect storm” for an epidemic, which is what has happened with more than 28,000 deaths attributed to opiates.

Kids are at a greater risk to become addicted, so Bozzo said he wants to get the word out to parents that they have to be proactive.

Just because a medical professional prescribes Percocet doesn’t mean it’s needed.

“I want you to have a healthy skepticism,” he said. “You have to be your own advocate for you health. You have to be an advocate for your children’s health.”

Bozzo said parents have to talk to their kids when they are still young.

Dr. Drew Nahigyan, who is also a member of the congregational church, agreed and also said parents have to listen to what their kids say about drugs.

“Talking to your children is a good thing, but really listening to them is key,” he said.

During his talk, Bozzo also explained various terms used in the discussion about opiate abuse as well as the effects of opiates on the body.

Aside from physical and mental effects that make addiction tough to kick, there are many other issues associated with the problem, said Bozzo.

“Mortality is only the tip of the iceberg with the opiate epidemic,” he said.

The effect on families as well as the burden on society are huge – there are broken families, overburdened hospitals, an overwhelmed foster care system, lost wages and much more.

After Bozzo’s lecture, Mattapoisett resident Sarah Lawton said she found the talk very helpful for getting a better understanding of the opiate epidemic.

Lawton also said Bozzo’s words helped to normalize the people who face addiction.

“People are afraid. It could be you or me.”

For helpful materials on speaking to kids, visit

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