Posted on August 14, 2013
Source: The Baltimore Sun
By Deborah Agus
It is mid-morning on a recent Friday in West Baltimore, and there is a long line snaking down the street and around the corner. Why? Vendors are dispensing free heroin samples.
In other areas of the city, buyers are risking arrest and drug contamination to illegally purchase buprenorphine. It is legal medication when given with a prescription. It is used to treat opioid addiction and facilitate recovery. So why buy it illegally? Not to get high as a substitute for heroin. They are using it to treat their heroin addiction. These purchasers can't afford or otherwise access this medication legally. Their only option is to buy it on the streets and self-treat. These purchasers are addicts who are so motivated to get clean that they are taking great risks to get it.
On July 11, The Sun reported that "[h]eroin overdose deaths soared last year in Baltimore, a city that has struggled with one of the highest rates of heroin addiction in the nation and with the violence that comes with illegal drug dealing."
The above scenarios reflect different facets of a tragedy. Addiction to opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs, affects a diverse population in increasing numbers. The results are often fatal and extremely costly in both human and economic terms. Yet, addiction is treatable. There are highly effective medications. When these medications are given along with therapy to repair the ravages caused by long-term addiction, there is a good chance for recovery.
So why is the situation worsening instead of improving? And why do we allow this to happen?
Drug addiction is a disease, but the stigma of addiction continues.