Heroin addiction in Baltimore is an epidemic, not just an image problem [Letter]

September 02, 2014

The recent dramatic rise in heroin overdose deaths has reached near epidemic levels in Maryland ("Overdose deaths are preventable," Aug. 29).

The commentary by Deanna Wilson, Stephanie Sparrow and Jennifer Kirschner is an important follow up to the views expressed by Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, who questioned the accuracy of the reported number of heroin addicts in Baltimore ("Heroin capital claim based on an old, bad number," Aug. 28).

Regrettably, it appears that the rest of America has caught up with Baltimore's widespread substance abuse problem. Within the past six months, my work entailed visiting anti-poverty programs in Idaho, Ohio, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, California, Wisconsin, West Virginia, South Carolina and New York. At each agency, I inquired about the level of substance abuse, especially heroin and alcohol.

And at every location, community leaders there described a situation that was "epidemic." These leaders also emphasized the connections between heroin addiction and poverty, unemployment, crime, family dysfunction, homelessness and multiple health issues.

Kudos to The Sun for calling attention to Overdose Awareness Week, Aug. 28-31. Maryland and our nation as a whole needs a coordinated, evidence-based strategy with sufficient funding to reduce this epidemic before it destroys any more people, families, children and communities.

Don Mathis, Havre de Grace

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