Overdose deaths are a sad indicator of opiate addiction statistics in Baltimore, MD. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore had 481 overdose deaths in the first three-quarters of 2016.1 The opiate addiction statistics on overdose deaths are dire for the entire state of Maryland. Heroin-related overdose deaths were 918, and Fentanyl-related were 738 for the first three-quarters of 2016.2 There is more than a 20-fold increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths since 2013. The current estimate is that there are nearly 25,000 people in Baltimore with an opioid use disorder.
 

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO REDUCE OPIATE ADDICTION STATISTICS?

The Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) is taking steps to reduce the problems of overdose and disease transmission that come with opiate abuse. Therefore, they have a Needle Exchange Program and also distribute naloxone to people who are having an overdose. (Naloxone blocks the effects of opiates.) People who want help can call a crisis phone line to get referrals to opioid addiction treatment. The extreme scope of the problem is driving the City of Baltimore to take action. The city recognizes that medication-assisted treatment is a highly-effective way to help people get off and stay off of opioids.
 

WHAT’S DRIVING THE OPIATE ADDICTION STATISTICS?

According to Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “the number of fentanyl-related deaths demonstrates the need for greater resources dedicated to identifying and treating opioid dependence.” He says that there should be a “focus on tackling the overprescribing of opioid painkillers, where many addicts get their start.”3 (Fentanyl mixes with heroin to increase potency.) A typical path to addiction is that a person has legal prescription painkillers to take for chronic pain or pain after surgery. The body starts to need more of the painkiller to produce the same effect. Hence, when a doctor will no longer prescribe a legal painkiller, the person still ‘needs’ the drugs. As a result, men and women turn to street drugs, such as heroin, to maintain pain relief. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.
 

MEDICATION-ASSISTED TREATMENT HELPS ADDICTS

Medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone or buprenorphine, has a track record of success. Up to 60% of people who enter treatment find the help they need to get off and stay off drugs. The medication is just that – medicine. It’s not a substitute for heroin or painkillers. The medication helps the body transition off of opiates by reducing the pain of withdrawal without euphoria. Treatment centers also provide counseling. Most of all, support and one-on-one counseling is an essential part of a successful outcome.
 

NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM REDUCES DISEASE

Needle exchanges don’t directly reduce opiate addiction, but they may help the overall situation. Baltimore has 16 locations with 26 weekly time slots for providing clean needles to addicts. Consequently, the program provides the opportunity for those in opiate addiction to receive counseling and testing for HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis. Mobile outreach also provides a non-judgmental method of reaching people who are at high-risk of disease or overdose.
 
Opiate addiction statistics are unfortunately growing every year, in Baltimore and across the U.S. Awareness of the problem is the first step in making positive changes. It takes commitment to a better life to turn things around. When people get ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired,’ resources are available to help.

 
 
1,2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/maryland-overdose-deaths-continue-steep-climb/2016/12/30/9076a02a-ce04-11e6-a747-d03044780a02_story.html?utm_term=.9635175c2471
 
3 http://digitaledition.baltimoresun.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=3db89ff4-9e90-4c51-9ea6-97c58249821b

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