Sixty-seven. That is the number of fatal overdoses involving drugs or alcohol that have already occurred in Carroll County this year through the end of November, according to data from the Sheriff’s Office.

There were at least 49 such deadly overdoses all of 2017, and at least 46 the year before that, according to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office records.

Advertisement

Carroll County overdose deaths far surpass 2017 total

In the first 11 months of the year, the number of fatal drug- and alcohol-related overdose deaths in Carroll County has already surpassed the number seen in 2017.

For all of the efforts being made at the local and state level to address the opioid epidemic in Carroll County and Maryland, the number of fatalities keep going up. And while it does seem the total number of overdoses are dipping somewhat, the progress being made there is not commensurate with the lives being lost.

If the goal is to reduce fatal overdoses, then we must commit to addressing addiction as a disease and be open to treating it medicinally over the long-term.

Like many jurisdictions, Carroll County has attempted to tackle the opioid epidemic in a number of different ways.

There is the law enforcement component, aimed at higher-level dealers and repeat offenders who are bringing drugs into the county in an attempt to get substances off the streets.

Offering free training classes and working to put the overdose antidote drug naloxone, commonly referred to by its brand name Narcan, into the hands of more people — not just police and first responders, but ordinary citizens — has been another strategy that has likely saved lives.

The State’s Attorney’s Office spearheaded several outreach programs, including early intervention to educate students in public schools about the dangers of the drug use, as well as the Major Overdose Initiative designed to convince individuals who have overdosed multiple times to seek treatment.

And yet, despite all of these efforts, and other public and private initiatives, here we are — 67 dead, an increase of more than 50 percent over the same time frame a year ago.

Where do we go from here? What else can be done?

For one, it’s important that none of the current efforts are abandoned. We shudder to think about what these statistics might look like if Carroll had not been as proactive as it has been in addressing the opioid epidemic.

In particular, there should be a continued emphasis on education and prevention, even as it proves difficult to measure outcomes. As Carroll Health Officer Ed Singer put it “you take a kid that’s in seventh grade and want to know, did it make a difference when they were 25? How do you measure that?” Regardless, any efforts to keep young people from dabbling with dangerous opioids or other addictive substances must continue.

Filming for 'Heroin Still Kills' begins in Carroll

Dancers, audience members, videographer Shawn Wehland of Sykesville-based Swehland Productions, Carroll theater technicians and Carroll County officials ready to film scenes for the reboot of “Heroin Kills,” aptly named “Heroin Still Kills.”

Where efforts likely need to be ramped up is on the treatment side, primarily by destigmatizing the idea that medically assisted treatment that calls for so-called maintenance drugs like buprenorphine or methadone is just replacing one drug for the other.

Unfortunately, there are still many in our community who view becoming addicted to heroin or other opioids as a person’s moral failure, and therefore do not believe it is helping that person for them to using maintenance drugs, despite research that has shown these medications can cut mortality among opioid addictions patients by half, sometimes more. They are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the World Health Organization.

We must be willing to treat addiction for what it is — a disease — and treat it with medication, just as we would treat cancer, asthma, diabetes or myriad other health issues.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement