As the opioid crisis continues on with few signs of slowing down, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that opioid overdoses are claiming the lives of more than 100 Americans per day.
Unfortunately, Baltimore and the state of Maryland as a whole are also suffering the effects of the opioid epidemic, with significant jumps in the number of both heroin-related deaths as well as opioid overdoses in general. In 2016, roughly 89 percent of all overdose deaths in Maryland were related to opioids, which is an increase of approximately70 percent from the previous year.
At the forefront of these substance abuse issues is Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland with a population of more than 620,000 accounting for about 10 percent of the entire population of Maryland. As such, for real change in substance abuse treatment to be initiated in the state, action needs to start in Baltimore.
Fortunately, those working in addiction research and treatment are doing everything they can to remain on the cutting edge of addiction recovery treatment and improve Baltimore substance abuse treatment.
There’s no denying that Baltimore has a serious opioid problem. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore ranks second in the nation in heroin-related death rates in cities with populations greater than 400,000, with an estimated 10 percent of the city’s population currently struggling with heroin use disorders.
The state of Maryland has struggled with heroin use issues for over 50 years, with what is known as the “Heroin Highway” for those moving drugs beginning in the city of Baltimore and has reported a five-fold increase in deaths relating to heroin use between 2010 and 2016.
The extremely dangerous and incredibly potent opioid analog fentanyl has also played a role in Baltimore substance abuse.
Of the nearly 700 drug and alcohol-related overdose deaths in Baltimore in 2016, more than half of them were due, at least in part, to the presence of fentanyl.
Finally, in an April 2017 report from the Baltimore County Police, Chief Terrence Sheridan relayed the troubling statistic that, as of his report, Baltimore County had seen 13 homicides, 16 traffic-related fatalities, and in contrast, 86 overdose deaths.
So what is being done about substance abuse treatment in Baltimore to fight back against the tide of opioid overdoses and substance abuse?
While these statistics may paint a grim picture of the substance abuse situation in Baltimore, there is still hope, and there are things being done to promote positive change within the city. In 2015, Leana Wen, formerly an emergency room physician, was appointed to the position of Baltimore Public Health Commissioner and instituted a standing prescription for the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan to every resident of Baltimore.
Since then, between 2015 and late 2017, more than 17,000 people have been trained to administer Narcan, and it has saved nearly 1,000 lives within the city.
Referred to as the Staying Alive Program, in 2016 alone more than 10,000 people were trained on how to properly use Narcan, approximately 9,000 kits were dispensed, and almost 450 overdoses were reported as reversed, saving lives.
Currently, more than 100 pharmacies in Baltimore carry Narcan and its generic, naloxone. In addition, the Baltimore Health Department is encouraging physicians to include a prescription for the drug along with every prescription they write for opioid painkillers to act as both a safeguard and a way to make doctors and patients think twice before over-prescribing painkillers.
Successful, effective substance abuse treatment must take a multifaceted approach to substance use disorders, addressing and treating every aspect of an individual’s addiction, which includes the psychological and physical sides.
Those who enter into substance addiction recovery treatment will generally start with detoxification, which involves having the alcohol or drugs flushed from their systems under the careful supervision of an experienced detox medical team as they go through the process of withdrawal. Depending on the severity of the addiction, this can be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis.
Over the course of a person’s addiction recovery treatment program, they will generally begin at the highest and most intensive level of care and then. As they progress, they move toward to less intensive treatment modalities, which can include, depending what most effectively meets the needs of a given individual:
Within these different levels of care are a wide range of different addiction recovery therapies and services that are meant to provide those engaged in substance abuse treatment the support, guidance, education, and skills they need to successfully understand and begin to manage their addictions. Some of these different therapies and programs include:
Seeking substance abuse treatment and recovery in Baltimore, or anywhere, really, can often feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to making sure you choose the best treatment facility that will be most effective for you or your loved one.
When searching for treatment, there are a few crucial things that are important for you to keep in mind, namely that addiction recovery is never a one-size-fits-all situation. You cannot “blanket treat” addiction because no two people’s addictions are going to be exactly the same, and so neither will their treatment. With this in mind, realize that some treatment centers will be able to meet your specific needs better than other facilities.
When sorting through the variety of Baltimore substance abuse treatment centers, one helpful tool you can rely on for properly evaluating a facility is the treatment center criteria set by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). Theirtreatment center criteria are as follows:
Accreditation is easily one of the most important things an addiction treatment center needs to have to be reputable. There are many specific certifications and licenses that a facility needs to operate and to receive these accreditations, they must meet extremely strict standards of operation so that you can be assured of the level of quality control.
While you want a facility that is on the cutting edge of addiction treatment, you don’t want that to be at the cost of proven effectiveness. It’s important to make sure that the treatment center employs evidence-based treatment with a proven track record of effectiveness and success that’s backed by the addiction research and science community as well as among clients, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Research has proven that for the majority of those who enter substance abuse treatment, having the support of their family and other loved ones during their recovery increased their overall chances of success. However, not all facilities will offer family therapy programs or even give those in treatment direct access to their friends or family during the course of their recovery treatment program.
Medication management and medication-assisted treatment are often extremely important elements in an individual’s addiction treatment program, especially when they are dependent on substances like opioids, which often require medical maintenance therapy to effectively treat. It’s important to know what the protocol is for medical management at a given treatment center, as not every facility is necessarily going to include medication-based services.
Recovery does not end after you’ve finished your substance abuse treatment program, as addiction management is a lifelong task. Because of this, you should know if a potential treatment facility offers any post-treatment support services for you to make use of once you have completed your treatment. Even the best substance abuse recovery programs can prove ineffective without follow-up support like alumni services or group meetings.