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Maryland —known as the "Old Line State" because during the Revolutionary War, 400 soldiers in the First Maryland Regiment fought a British force of 10,000 and helped General George Washington's army to escape—is now the wealthiest state in the United States (according to a ranking by financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall Street) with a median household income of $83,242 in 2018. Given Maryland's wealth, it would be tempting to think that it had been spared the scourge of drug addiction that has ravaged poorer states, but this isn't the case. Despite being relatively well-off in terms of resources, The Old Line State continues to have one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the country.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's quite complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse is a national problem, and no state in the US has been spared. Over 60,000 overdoses occurred nationwide in 2016, nearly 175 people dying daily. Drug overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents and guns. These numbers increase every year.
Poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, but this doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. It can also then be harder to get a new job, if someone has been fired from their old one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, the scourge of opioid addiction has blown through Maryland like a blizzard, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. In Maryland, nearly 90% of drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018; a total of 2,087 deaths (a rate of 33.7). Opioid addiction is a particularly menacing foe because it's a malady that can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Prescription painkillers (like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet) are highly addictive, in large part because they activate the powerful reward centers in the human brain. These drugs trigger the release of endorphins, (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters) which mask or interrupt your perception of pain and enhance feelings of pleasure and happiness, creating a short-lasting but extremely powerful sense of well-being. It's only human to love the feeling! And, when an opioid starts to wear off, it's in our very human nature to crave the return of that wonderful sense that everything is perfect and as it should be. This is the first step on the path toward addiction, and it can happen even to people who think they're being careful.
The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive drugs when, in many cases, Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. These drugs may seem safe, especially when doctors prescribe them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a downward spiral into the throes of full-on dependency. In 2018, Maryland providers wrote 45.1 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people!
Unfortunately, prescription painkiller abuse can often send people down far darker paths. Opioids often lead to heroin addiction, (as heroin is cheaper than the pills, and usually far easier to obtain on the street.) Since the mid 1990's, admissions for heroin addiction have steadily increased in Maryland treatment facilities. The spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug abusers often then turn to incredibly powerful and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, which sooner or later result in a body bag. Fatalities in Maryland involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly fentanyl and fentanyl analogs) increased to 1,825 (a rate of 29.6) in 2018. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
A recent study took a look at the substances most commonly abused by Maryland youth, and the numbers are concerning:
31% of Maryland high school students (grades 9-12) report using marijuana (also called grass, pot, or weed) 1 or more times over the course of their lifetime.
5% of these same high school students report they've used cocaine 1 or more times in their lifetime.
3% of Maryland youth (ages 12-17) report using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year.
The good news for Maryland residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Old Line State is awash in resources, whether you just need counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or full-on detox services. All it takes is the courage to take the first, terrifying step. Embrace the pain that got you here. Use it, own it, and move past it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Maryland State Facts
Maryland Population: 5,296,486
Law Enforcement Officers in Maryland: 16,495
Maryland Prison Population: 36,100
Maryland Probation Population: 80,708
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 2
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Maryland
Cocaine: 111.2 kgs.
Heroin: 10.7 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 0.0 kgs.
Marijuana: 106.4 kgs.
Ecstasy: 69 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 1 (DEA, state, and local)
Maryland Drug Situation: Maryland is situated on the north end of the mid-Atlantic region and bisected by Interstate-95. Drugs, weapons and illicit proceeds destined for points south of New York City routinely transit the state through Baltimore. Maryland's drug situation is complicated by the presence of two major metropolitan areas in the state: Baltimore and its surrounding counties in the northern part of the state, and the suburban counties of Washington, DC in southern Maryland. In addition, Maryland's major seaport in Baltimore contributes to a substantial amount of international drug traffic coming into the state. Baltimore is deeply affected by the heroin trade, having carried the dubious distinction as one of the most heroin-plagued cities in the nation for over a decade.
Cocaine in Maryland: Cocaine and crack abuse and distribution pose a significant threat throughout the state of Maryland, particularly in cities situated near Washington, DC. Law enforcement sources in cities and towns located along the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland also cite crack cocaine as the primary drug threat in their areas. Violence continues to accompany the cocaine trade in the state. Wholesale levels of cocaine are readily available via suppliers in New York City and the southwestern U.S.
Heroin in Maryland: Heroin is abused throughout Maryland but is most problematic in and around the city of Baltimore. Baltimore is home to higher numbers of heroin addicts and heroin-related crime than almost any other city in the nation, and those problems tend to spill over into adjoining counties where many heroin distributors maintain residences. The enormous demand for heroin in the Baltimore metropolitan area led to an increase in the drug's abuse among teens and young adults, who routinely drive into the city to obtain heroin for themselves and other local abusers. In the Baltimore metropolitan area, heroin is sold almost exclusively by street name and packaged in gelatin capsules. Highly pure heroin - "raw" - marketed toward suburban users is sometimes packaged in vials (much like crack cocaine).
Methamphetamine in Maryland: Methamphetamine is not in high demand nor is it widely available in the state of Maryland. Although clandestine methamphetamine laboratories have been seized in the state in the past few years - one of which was large enough to receive classification by EPIC as a "super-lab" - the problem overall is minimal. Drug users in western Maryland, near West Virginia, and young adults involved in the cities' rave scenes are the primary audiences for methamphetamine.
Club Drugs in Maryland: Baltimore, Maryland maintains a thriving rave and nightclub scene in which club drugs, usually MDMA, are abused. Club drugs such as Ketamine, GHB and others do not carry the same demand nor availability as MDMA. Notable, however, are recent statements by law enforcement sources that MDMA has become a drug of choice among young, inner-city drug dealers in Baltimore and among young, primarily blue-collar individuals in the western part of the state. A MDMA laboratory was recently seized in the city of Baltimore.
Marijuana in Maryland: The most widely-abused drug in Maryland, marijuana remains easily available in every part of the state. Low levels of marijuana cultivation occur in the state, primarily in western Maryland and along the Eastern Shore, where private farmland and public parkland are conducive to growers' concerns for anonymity.
OxyContin and Other Prescription Drug Diversion in Maryland: Until recently, Maryland experienced high levels of pharmaceutical diversion primarily in association with Baltimore's open-air drug markets. OxyContin, however, has become the drug of choice among pharmaceutical drug abusers. Maryland - particularly the city of Baltimore - is becoming a source area for OxyContin abusers in Virginia and West Virginia, likely due to the enormous scrutiny the drug is under in those two states.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been four MET deployments in the State of Maryland since the inception of the program: Baltimore, Hagerstown, and Annapolis (2).
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There has been one RET deployment in the State of Maryland since the inception of the program, in Baltimore.
DEA Special Topics: The Washington/Baltimore HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) supports and assists in the funding of a multi-agency enforcement task force and an Intelligence group in Washington, DC. In addition, the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department has its own Major Narcotics Branch, and other drug and violent crime-related enforcement operations in place.