Maryland’s response to opioid epidemic is a national example

Nationally, you can’t pick up a newspaper or look at a Facebook feed without seeing something relating to the opioid epidemic that’s killing first-time drug users and long-time addicts alike.

New, high-powered versions of synthetic opioids have hit the illegal drug market. Many dealers are using fentanyl and carfentanil, drugs more powerful than morphine, as additives to their opioids in order to make them stronger — but users are dying at an alarming rate.

Every state in the nation seems to be trying to find a way to cope with the crisis, but Maryland’s response has been exemplary — and other states could learn a lot by example.

Maryland’s approach is to come at the crisis from a number of levels, both before and after addicts hit the court system:

1. The HOPE Act, or Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort and Treatment Act, sets standards hospitals have to follow when they discharge people who have sought treatment for drug abuse, makes naloxone (an anti-overdose drug) readily available and establishes a hotline and treatment center for those in the midst of a crisis.

2. A second act, called the Prescriber Limits Act of 2017, aims to keep addiction from taking hold. Many opioid addicts start their addiction through the use of legal prescriptions, so the Act requires doctors to prescribe the lowest effective dose of opioid that will work.

3. At the criminal level, Maryland has adopted a hard-line approach for dealers who knowingly sell drugs mixed with fentanyl. Senate Bill 539 allows dealers who do so to receive an additional 10 years on their prison sentence if they’re caught.

4. Addicts who end up in the criminal system, however, are being treated more kindly. Drug treatment instead of incarceration and then a return to the streets is now the rule of the day, thanks to the Justice Reinvestment Act. Nonviolent drug offenders can often opt for alternatives to jail that will hopefully help them beat their addiction for good.

If you’ve been charged with any type of drug violation, including a crime involving prescription drugs, don’t give up hope — seek legal help immediately and discuss your options with your attorney.

Source: Washington Examiner, “In the opioid crisis, Maryland is an example for the rest of the nation,” Ronald Lampard, June 27, 2017

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