Let me first state that the point of naloxone is not to cure substance abuse but to provide another tool to save someone who is sick and suffering a medical emergency. I have always been perplexed by Baltimore County's decision to grant Mike Gimbel a title such as "drug czar" and promote him as the number one substance abuse expert in Maryland ("Narcan won't solve the problem of addiction," June 23). While we are all entitled to our personal opinions, he has repeatedly passed off his as professional ones. If he was serious about reducing the growing population of substance abusers, he would wake up and realize that his approach is one that has not worked in this state or country as a whole. It is in line with the failed public policies of the war on drugs campaign.
Mr. Gimbel states that he has tried to educate the public about the disease of addiction and how drug addicts think and make decisions over the years. However, he has failed to educate himself about the various public health initiatives that are not only reducing the harm individuals are doing to themselves but also the many micro- and macro-levels of society. His words are not only reckless, they are ignorant and demonstrate that his views are solely from his own experiences as an addict. All addicts do not think the same despite the nature of addiction. Do not be fooled, addicts come in all shapes and sizes, and addiction crosses all socioeconomic barriers. Harm reduction programs do address the problems faced by addicts, but that is just another example of his lack of knowledge about these programs.
The Baltimore City Health Department implemented an overdose response program where addicts were trained to perform rescue breathing and administer naloxone in 2004. Mr. Gimbel was one of those in opposition, leading the charge to denounce the efforts to reduce the rate of overdose deaths by training addicts. The program has been going strong and trying to keep up with the demand for training for the past decade now with not one reported incident of concern. These programs are crucial because they provide education and other services to a population that is often hard to reach. They engage clients were they are, increasing the opportunity to link them to other needed services like substance abuse treatment.
We are not going to incarcerate or kidnap our way out of the problems our country faces in relation to drugs. Therefore, we must continue to evolve in our approaches to effectively address the problems. If people are dead, you are unlikely going to get them into recovery, if that is the goal.
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