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The devastation of addiction

By McKenzie Ward

Jimmy Hayes, a native from Dorchester, played seven seasons for the NHL, two of those with the Boston Bruins, and was well loved by Boston locals.

On Aug. 23, 2021, Hayes died at only 31 years old. He is survived by his wife, Kristen and their two sons, both under the age of 4.

When his death was reported, I was taken by surprise that a 31-year-old athlete would suddenly die.

On Oct. 17, The Boston Globe reported that Hayes had died as a result of an “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine.” His wife reported to be shocked by the toxicology report and said she was “so certain it had nothing to do with drugs” and that Hayes never showed signs of struggle at home.

His father, Jimmy, told The Globe that he had noticed a difference in Hayes about 16 to 17 months ago. He had reached out to Hayes and told him if he needed help to ask for it.

Hayes told his father three weeks later that he was addicted to pills, and he entered a rehabilitation center in Haverhill.

Sadly, Hayes lost his battle with addiction, but his family hopes that his story can inspire others to join the road of recovery.

While I was shocked to hear about Hayes’ passing, I was not surprised that addiction had stolen another innocent life.

In 2018, there were 67,367 overdose-related deaths in the United States, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Opioids were involved in nearly 70% of these deaths and the reported average rate for the number of opioid prescriptions written out for every 100 patients in the U.S. is 51.4 prescriptions, according to the NIDA.

In 2020, there were 2,035 confirmed opioid-related deaths, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Our country is struggling with an epidemic that can destroy a life, no matter the age, race, wealth, or gender of an individual.

While interning at a Massachusetts district courthouse last summer, I watched as person after person entered the courtroom and shared their own struggles with drug abuse and how it had ruined their lives. There were days I would walk out of the courthouse and sit in my car and mourn the loss of life and freedom of those who struggled or continue to struggle with this debilitating disease.

During the internship, I watched as the judge, lawyers, and many others in the courthouse worked together to find ways other than jail time to help these individuals.

It amazed me to see the great lengths the workers of the courthouse went to in order to save

someone’s life.

What I quickly learned during my time as an intern is if we are to see real change in the number of overdoses each year, we need to stop using the prison system as punishment for those who suffer from substance abuse issues.

Locking up those who struggle with substance abuse is not effective as it only ignores the issues that an individual is facing.

Instead, we need to be investing in better and more accessible rehabilitation programs.

Through adequate funding and support to create affordable rehabilitation centers that allow patients to stay long term and provide support even after being discharged, our government will be able to create a viable treatment system for victims of substance abuse that will be effective and allow individuals to seek treatment without worrying about going into debt.

There is no finish line on the road to recovery. Instead, it is an everyday commitment to getting and staying clean, which is why having on-going support for those who are discharged is key to ensuring people continue to stay sober.

This is more than just an issue our country is facing.

It is an epidemic.

And we need to start treating it as one before it’s too late.

Massachusetts Substance Use Hotline: 800-327-5050

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator:


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