April 25, 2015

Syringe lying beside the road

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

To begin:  the syringe in the above photograph is labeled as having contained sodium chloride, which is used to flush IV lines and for hydration/electrolyte replacement.  There is no evidence whatsoever that this particular syringe was used for injecting heroin.  What is curious, though, is that the syringe was lying by the side of a road where other drug paraphernalia has been found in the past.  However, that may genuinely be just a coincidence.

Over the past few years, heroin use in Maryland has reached epic proportions and Governor Larry Hogan has convened the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force to suss out ways to cope with the problem.  (This link is to the announcement of the Task Force and contains a list of the agencies represented.)  Some statistics illustrate the scope of the problem:

  • In 2013, there were 464 heroin-related overdose deaths, greater than the number of homicides
  • Between 2010 and 2013, cases of heroin-related overdose deaths increased by 95 percent.
  • Preliminary data for 2014 shows that heroin-related overdose deaths are on pace to surpass those in 2013 by approximately 20 percent.
  • Heroin and opioid drug dependency has more than doubled in Maryland over the last decade.
  • The number of deaths in Maryland related to heroin and opioid drug dependency has increased by more than 100 percent in the last five years.
  • Some parts of Maryland have the highest per capita rate of heroin and opioid drug use in the United States.
  • In some regions of the state, an estimated one in ten citizens are addicted to heroin.
  • The number of heroin-related emergency room visits has more than tripled in Maryland since 2010.  (NOTE:  This list is from the “Heroin Facts” tab at the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force link above.)

Quite a problem indeed.


Banner advertising "Buckwild Truck and Tractor Classic" sponsored by beer companies

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

However, it is important to recognize just how much another drug, alcohol, has been incorporated into our culture, as the above photograph illustrates.

Banner advertising a "Drug and Violence Awareness Expo"

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Interestingly, the banner shown above was attached to the same fence and just a few feet away.

Pile of empty beer cases laying on sidewalk.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In light of the heroin-related statistics posted above, it is important to recognize that when it comes to social problems, the statistics for alcohol-related mayhem also bear examination.  According to the Centers for Disease Control:

“Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death. This dangerous behavior accounted for approximately 88,000 deaths per year from 2006–2010, and accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20–64 years. Excessive alcohol use shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years.”

Yes, there certainly is justification to be concerned about the increase in heroin-related overdoses and deaths.  At the same time, alcohol creates far more problems and is far more costly-I would invite readers to search for the statistics regarding the involvement of alcohol in domestic violence cases, traffic accidents, and lost job-productivity.  It is also significant to note the role the war in Afghanistan has played in the flooding of the world markets with relatively inexpensive, high-quality, heroin.

The main difference here is that alcohol has a much, much longer history in American culture-in the 1600-1700s it was often safer to drink than the water available, and it is a legal, albeit restricted, drug.  It is also a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry.  Can you imagine going to a sporting event and not being encouraged to drink alcohol?

Take care.


The Baltimore Sun "Heroin Deaths" headline

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the May 20, 2015 Baltimore Sun newspaper.


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