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Letter: Substance abuse disorder still a major problem, even as health focus has shifted to COVID-19 | COMMENTARY

Thank you for publishing the commentary “Deaths from diseases rising, that’s unacceptable,” in the July 14 edition of The Aegis. The editorial responsibly and straightforwardly addressed the necessity for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to trust the expertise of doctors and scientists, not that of quacks.

Missing from the commentary, however, was any mention of substance use disorder, often referred to as “drug addiction.” The National Institute of Health defines drug addiction as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”

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Understandably, community leaders and others have been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. Alas, the Delta variant of the coronavirus is disrupting efforts to defeat that disease.

But recently released statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that our communities have experienced significant increases in fatal overdoses from opioids like heroin and fentanyl and other drugs.

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The Central Maryland region that includes Harford County had a 12.7% increase of such deaths. The Eastern Shore region that includes Cecil County had a 38.1% increase, highest rate in Maryland. The drug problem has gotten even more complicated as the highly addictive fentanyl is now found in cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit benzos and other pills.

Thankfully, evidence-based solutions and promising treatment and recovery practices offer genuine hope for reducing and reversing this drug epidemic. These include community-based, nonprofit organizations like Addiction Connections Resource in Fallston and Voices of Hope in Elkton that help people and families with substance use disorder.

The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan has increased funding for prevention, treatment, recovery and public education services and programs. Our state and county elected officials and policymakers should fast track these funds to our communities.

DON MATHIS

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Havre de Grace

The writer serves on the board of Addiction Connections Resource and is a peer recovery specialist at Voices of Hope.

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