The fentanyl overdose epidemic continues to leave its mark on the state of Maryland. Last year, the number of overdose deaths tied to the synthetic drug reached an all-time high and 2018 is looking like it will even surpass that number.
The numbers are heart-breaking. A total of 1,594 people died last year in the state due to a fentanyl-related overdose. In the first three months of this year, 500 people already died for the very same reason. These fentanyl overdoses are happening while heroin overdoses are on the decline.
Governor Larry Hogan is taking this seriously. Since he took office in 2015, he has put more than $500 million toward addressing substance abuse disorders. He himself also has first-hand experience with the pain that comes with drug addiction, as he lost a family member to a drug overdose.
What more can be done?
One thing is to help people who are struggling with substance abuse. Maryland is going to be one of six states in the country that is going to start using grant money to help those abusing drugs to find re-employment. The hope here is that if people are not ostracized – but rather treated like productive members of society – they will stay clean and sober.
Last year, the governor also ordered that pharmacies dispense naloxone – better known as Narcan – to people without a prescription. The pharmaceutical is an overdose-reversal drug that can literally save a person’s life.
While all of this is certainly a step in the right direction, some worry it’s not enough and want to see more done, like needle exchange programs, more drug treatment programs in jails and prisons and more 24-hour crisis centers where people can go for help.
What about criminal charges?
Possessing fentanyl without a prescription is against the law. People know this, yet their addiction often overrides the risk of getting caught. When you are struggling with a substance abuse disorder, the addiction takes over.
Many times, people who are struggling with addiction also act in ways they normally never would. For example, suddenly, the former honor roll student with a bright future is stealing to feed his addiction. Others may also turn to selling drugs themselves or engaging in other risky and illegal behaviors, just to be able to get their hands on more drugs.
This can all lead to criminal charges. In all reality, family members may not even notice how out-of-control someone’s behavior has even gotten until there is an arrest.
In these cases, it’s important to put resources toward both treatment for the addiction and any aftermath from the arrest. When someone is trying to take steps to turn their life around, having a drug-related conviction on their record is not going to help. This is part of the reason why many people also choose to work with an attorney and seek out drug treatment before going before a judge. Not only can this help with the underlying addiction, many judges also view this attempt at recovery rather favorably.