Baltimore: The Heroin Capital of the United States


In my last blog post I discussed the difficulties evident in Baltimore’s primary and secondary educational system. I offered several factors that may contribute to the poor performance of the system including the lack of value and emphasis on educational achievement, limited qualified teachers, and scarce financial resources. One of the primary factors offered as impacting Baltimore’s educational system was the city’s drug trade. In this blog post I would like to delve deeper into Baltimore’s drug trade and the devastating consequences it has inflicted upon Baltimore.

In a recent article released by ABC News, Carter M. Yang, the author of the article, characterized Baltimore as the heroin capital of the United States of America. According to Yang’s article, 60,000 of the 645,000 residents in Baltimore are addicted to drugs and 48,000 are addicted to heroin.

Heroin is a highly addictive narcotic painkiller that is used recreationally for its euphoric effects. Heroin is so addictive that, according to the National Institute for Drug abuse, 23% of the 2.3 billion people who have used heroin become dependent on it. Long-term use of heroin results in deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which may affect decision-making abilities and judgment. Unfortunately, as users begin to experiment with heroin, they develop a tolerance, meaning they must increase their dosage each time they choose to take the drug in order to achieve the same effect. This often results in physical and psychological addiction as well as fatal overdoses.

The drug problem is so intense in Baltimore that it has been declared part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This program was created in 1988 when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The purpose of the Act is to reduce drug abuse by helping to provide law enforcement agencies with resources and enhance drug prevention and drug addiction programs.

According to Tom Carr, the head of the Washington and Baltimore HIDTA program, the heroin problem in Baltimore began in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, heroin use is integrated into the city’s urban culture. As I indicated in my previous post, using drugs and selling drugs has become an acceptable way of life for many adolescents and young adults in the city. Carr even went to far as to say that it is “a rite of passage,” for many young individuals in the community,

Drug use is not only detrimental to one’s individual health, but it also contributes to several of the city’s other problems. As I stated in my first post, the heroin epidemic in Baltimore has largely contributed to the failing educational system. In addition, drug use also plays a significant role in violent crime in the city. Many individuals end up involved in prostitution, robberies, or more serious crimes in order to support their habit.

Many politicians and citizens of Baltimore have been trying to come up with solutions to help put an end to this heroin epidemic. Some argue that there is no point in trying to stop it as the number of drug dealers and drug users rises annually. Also, Baltimore’s low-income neighborhoods and its location on the harbor make it prime target for drug dealers to ship drugs up and down the coast. Some individuals have proposed drug interdiction through the arrest and incarceration of both dealers and users. Others have suggested decriminalization for users and greater access to treatment alternatives. Still others focus on the high number of drug overdose deaths, seeking strategies to reduce the loss of life. In 2013 alone, 300 fatal heroin overdoses were reported in Baltimore. In response to this shocking amount of deaths, Baltimore City Police officers are required to carry naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose. Unfortunately, many users report a fear of going to prison and therefor are reluctant to call for help.

The heroin epidemic in Baltimore remains a significant and recalcitrant problem impacting every aspect of the city’s health and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. However, the city has yet to declare a state of emergency. Baltimore is the only major city on the East Coast that has not declared a state of emergency. As the number of drug dealers and drug consumers continue to rise, many wonder what actions the city can take to address the far-reaching effects of this epidemic.


6 Comments on Baltimore: The Heroin Capital of the United States

  1. soc5592
    April 15, 2016 at 2:10 pm (5 years ago)

    I actually wrote my issue brief about this topic as well. I proposed a plan in which drugs, such as heroin, would be decriminalized and individuals would receive treatment and rehabilitation instead of incarceration. I believe that first politicians and citizens must work to change the perception of drug addicts. Many people look down upon them and assume that they are in complete control of themselves. Unfortunately, some individuals have a biological predisposition to drug addiction. Perhaps if we change the perception of drug addicts people will be more likely to take a stand and fight for their treatment, rather than their incarceration.

  2. mgg153
    February 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm (5 years ago)

    I am curious what different ways Baltimore plans to combat this issue. I think that the education system should be a priority in any city, and if that happens, would it not at least help alleviate the major issue. It would not make it go away, but it should help educate young individuals about the problems brought on by the drug trade issues.

  3. ceb5649
    February 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm (5 years ago)

    Since most drug users are afraid to call for help in the instance of an overdose, I wonder if decriminalization of heroin use would be an appropriate solution. While this may reduce the number of deaths due to overdoses, I think it may also lead to a rise in usage because the threat of prison is no longer a factor. If decriminalization were to be put into effect, do you think it would apply only to heroin users, or also to other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine? And if it were to be enacted, would decriminalization encourage the use of recreational drugs? or discourage it?

  4. Rachel Sonia Fleischer
    February 12, 2016 at 2:09 pm (5 years ago)

    I wonder if the reason why they haven’t called a State of Emergency is because of the lack of progress that the War on Drugs has had. By solving this problem alone, it sounds like the lasting effects would be monumental.

  5. lpk5055
    February 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm (5 years ago)

    I haven’t read your blog before, but really like how you are addressing major inner city problems that are localized within the particular city of Baltimore. You mention the actions that Baltimore has taken to counter such issues, but also their lack of action. What tactics have been used in other cities to address the issue of drug abuse? Have these tactics proven effective or ineffective? Would you recommend that Baltimore employ some of these tactics or develop a new, more intense approach as they are the “heroin capital” of America.

  6. rej5110
    February 12, 2016 at 2:01 pm (5 years ago)

    What does declaring a state of emergency actually entail? Are there specific repercussions that accompany it or does it serve more to set the tone?

    From this and your previous post, I guess you can consider the drug trade and education system failures as a Catch-22 of sorts. Without sufficient education, young people often cannot gain the skills to earn respectable wages throughout their lives. Yet, at the same time, the prevalence of the drug trade is interfering with schools and causing students to drop out… Sounds like a topic worthy of deliberating

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