Sept. 19-24 Is Heroin & Opioid Awareness Week

Officials say the effort is to deter people from using these drugs.

Baltimore, Md (KM) State, federal and local officials around the nation are promoting “Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week” from now through September 24th. US Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein says his office will be working to bring attention to the dangers of epidemic and opioid use in the state, and ways to prevent getting addicted. He says the process is “number one, to avoid getting hooked; not get started down the road and taking heroin and opioid drugs,” he says. “And number two, to make sure to get treatment for anybody you know who may suffering from a heroin addiction.”

Rosenstein says heroin and opioid addiction increased by 200% in just the past few ¬†years. “In 2011, in Maryland alone, we had about 250 deaths. Last year, we had 750. What we’re facing here is a tripling of deaths attributable to heroin just in a four-year period. And that increase has continued into this year,” he says.

He says heroin and opioid abuse is not confined solely to urban areas such as Baltimore. It has been found on the Eastern Shore and western Maryland.

Rosenstein says it often happens when individuals become addicted to prescription medications. “People become addicted through taking opioid drugs, sometimes inadvertently because they’ve gotten a prescription from a doctor for a legitimate pain problem and they’ve just gotten hooked on it,” he says. “Sometimes, purposely, when there are certain doctors who have overprescribed opioids and knowingly gotten people hooked on these dangerous drugs.”

In Maryland, overdoses are investigated as homicides. “We’re using enforcement powers. We’re trying to identify heroin distributors and prosecute them and hold them accountable for the damage that that drug is causing. But we’re still only going to be able to prosecute a fraction of the dealers out there,” says Rosenstein. “The key to stopping the growth of this epidemic is to get the word out to people to avoid getting hooked in the first place.”

He encourages anyone who has a heroin problem and wants to get clean to seek out treatment centers in their communities. “Unfortunately, the demand is outstripping the supply. There are only so many slots available for treatment. Efforts are being made by both the federal and state governments to get more funding for treatment,” says Rosenstein.

By Kevin McManus