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2015 Drug Trends in Maryland

Maryland is breaking the pattern of most states by continuing to see a decrease in drug abuse and drug related deaths. The state has been proactive in both working with law enforcement agencies to disrupt supply routes, but have placed a greater emphasis on public education and the availability of treatment programs. As of 2013, Maryland ranked 32nd out of all the states with a high score of 6 out of 10 on the drug scale report card. There are some small areas of rising concern, but all indicators point towards Maryland adjusting their approach to handle the one area of growing concern in the state.

What illegal drug is growing in use?

While the rates for use of hard and soft drugs from heroin to marijuana have been falling, the rate of prescription drug abuse has been rising. This is of great concern because the abuse rate is rising evenly among all age groups and genders, with a slightly higher rate for seniors and pre-teens. Not all illegal prescription drugs are obtained by street purchase. There is a growing trend of pre-teens sharing pills they have obtained at home. What is of even greater concern is that the types of prescription drugs being shared are leaving the usual arena of narcotic prescriptions and entering the realm of some very dangerous medications including those used to treat ADHD/ADD, seizures and HIV/AIDs. The last is also a significant indicator of the increase of sexual activity in those under the age of 18. Many teens and pre-teens believe the myth that by taking HIV/AIDs drugs that they are then protected from all STDs.

What is noticeably absent?

While the illegal use of prescription drugs is rising, and the use of soft and hard drugs is falling – one area of interest to point out is how alcohol abuse is neither declining nor increasing. It is remaining a steady presence in all age groups, with an expected uptick in the mid-youth ages. This is partly due to an intensive educational campaign in the state about alcoholism treatment, and the dangers of alcohol addiction. There has also been a much stricter policy about legal drinking age enforcement too.

Two factors that have made a difference

Maryland stands out among other states for the presence of its prescription control programs. They currently have over 49 programs in place. Given the rising prevalence in illegal prescription drug use, but not a prevalence that comes near other state rates; these programs appear to be working. What is harder is to expand public awareness of the dangerous of inappropriate or illegal prescription drug use. Maryland has a strong focus on educational programs, as has been evidenced in the decline of experimentation rates among their young with hard or soft drugs.

The choice to focus on understanding addiction overcriminalization

Maryland is also notable for its limited use of DEA mobile unit collaborations. The majority of their funding has focused on intervention and treatment programs, seeking an understanding as to why people use drugs.. They have also initiated several economic and educational programs aimed at combating the core roots of addiction; which is often escape from financial stress. The public and private treatment programs in the state are considered to be leading models for effective recovery treatment as well.

What remains to be done?

While Maryland has one of the best showings of all the states in reducing and controlling drug abuse, the rising trend of prescription drug abuse presents a new issue. Prescription drugs are often perceived as safer than illegal drugs. Many people who abuse them or distribute them do not recognize the harm they represent when taken without medical necessity, or when taken beyond the prescribed dosage. The recent changes in insurance statewide has also led to some fear about the security of prescriptions for many. The real concern is what a growing trend of prescription drug abuse could imply for the state.

Heroin is a real potential threat

Rates of increasing prescription drug abuse often precede a rise in the trafficking and use of heroin. The high associated with heroin is considered to be similar enough to that found in the abuse of many prescription drugs that when addicts cannot afford their drug of choice, they may turn to heroin. One problem that remains to be addressed is the radical difference in the approach to education and treatment of heroin addiction over prescription drug abuse. Maryland has shown itself to be uniquely suited to using effective programs and they are watched closely to see if their approach would serve as a good model for other states to adopt.

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