The Maryland Legislature is forgetting one key element in their efforts to fight drug abuse in the state: increased treatment.
During the current General Assembly session, legislators introduced and debated bills on legalizing marijuana, decriminalizing marijuana, medical use of marijuana, giving clean needles to addicts, giving the anti-overdose medicine Narcan to addicts as well as the traditional bills on taxing tobacco and increasing penalties on drunk drivers. The rationalization for many of these bills was that we need to treat the drug problem as a medical issue, not a criminal one.
Meanwhile there was not one bill introduced to increase the availability of drug and alcohol treatment to the citizens of Maryland. If we all agree that we are not going to arrest our way out of this drug problem and we need to treat addiction as a medical problem, than where in the world are we supposed to send people seeking help in Maryland?
Believe me, if you or someone you care about has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it is very difficult to find long-term, affordable treatment in Maryland. I get numerous calls each week from people seeking help who can't find it in Maryland. Even when a new program opens in Maryland, no one seems to care. Two weeks ago, a new private program opened in Towson, called the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, and they had an open house featuring the White House Deputy Drug Czar David Meneta. All the media was invited so the public would know about this new program, and only WBAL-TV sent a news crew.
I realize that drug and alcohol treatment is not as sexy to the public or the media as legalizing marijuana, but I guarantee its the most important piece of the puzzle to solve our state's and nation's drug and alcohol problem. Treatment does work, but not if you can't find it. Just ask any parent or spouse of an addict.
Mike Gimbel, Timonium
The writer is a recovering addict and former Baltimore County Drug Czar.-
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