The article “Baltimore Explored a Bold Solution to Fight Heroin Addiction” documents the efforts of Doctor Leana S. Wen, a former doctor at George Washington Hospital in Washington D.C and current city health commissioner, to improve the situation of the opioid epidemic in her city. In 2012 the city saw 393 deaths caused by overdoses. The number of deaths caused by heroin tripled from 2011 to 2012 raising the number of overdoses from 76 to 260.
After seeing the wreckage that addiction has brought to her city Wen has built a three step plan to lower the number of overdoses and encourage treatment for opioid addicts in Baltimore. This plan involves preventing overdoses, treating addiction, and ending the stigma against users.
To prevent overdoses, Wen made Naloxone more accessible to the general public and educated people in jails and hospitals on how to administer it. Naloxone gives a person 30-90 minutes to receive medical help after an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. While many lives have been saved by this drug, there are still many others that believe it only encourages addicts to continue using drugs because it removes the risk of dying. However, Wein claims this is an argument “based on stigma and not on science”. The fact of the matter is that addiction is a disease, and in order for it to get better it must be treated as a disease.
Even after an overdose, a person is not given enough help to work towards recovering. Doctor Marc Fishman the medical director at Maryland Treatment Centers says that after a person’s life is saved by Naloxone they are “dusted off and given a piece of paper with phone numbers”. However, these phone numbers lead to no help. He says, “Maybe somebody will answer. Maybe they’ll take your insurance. Maybe they’ll see you next week or next month”. Dr. Fishman instead suggests that a “full continuum” is needed to help people recover from addiction.
Wen has worked towards this “full continuum” by making a 24-hour hotline that helps people get treatment option referrals. She also plans to open a stabilization center where people can go to get sober and hopes to see more medication-assisted treatment, housing, and supportive social services.Tags: Judge Memorial Catholic High School