BALTIMORE — Health experts are weighing in on the nation’s escalating opioid epidemic after overdose deaths reached a record high last year.
Dale Klatzker, president and CEO of Gaudenzia Inc., a nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment and recovery center with locations in Maryland, said it’s an unprecedented time for addiction.
“It’s hijacked people and we can’t keep up with it,” said Klatzker, a behavioral health care expert of four decades. “I’ve never seen the numbers the way they are. I’ve never seen the deaths as high as they are. Last year, according to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we had well over 100,000 people die of an overdose.”
It comes after COVID-19 shut down many treatment programs. However, there is somewhat promising news in the Mid-Atlantic.
“The numbers of overdose deaths in Maryland from last year to this year were about the same, and nationally, the overdose deaths increased by about 15%. So, Maryland was able to keep the levels steady,” Klatzker said.
Klatzker said the effect of the disease will be felt in communities until more is done to coordinate care and reduce stigma.
“People can and do recover every day. But we as a society still treat it, for the most part, as a moral failing, as something people willfully participate in. Nobody willfully wants to be addicted to a medication. It affects the wiring in your brain,” Klatzker said.
Klatzker said there’s no easy fix for the complex issue, but he believes it starts with prevention.
“We can and should be doing better in this area than we are,” Klatzker said.