Baltimore Has a Lot More Heroin Users Than We Previously Thought

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Baltimore has a lot more heroin users than we previously thought
Photo via National Geographic

When Nat Geo’s Drugs, Inc. series called Baltimore the “heroin capital of America” it was presumably going off an old, discredited figure of 60,000 “Baltimoreans with some sort of substance abuse problem.” The real number of heroin users was thought to be closer to 11,000. But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s recently formed heroin task force just reassessed that number, by a huge margin.

The task force has concluded that there are somewhere around 19,000 Baltimoreans who use heroin, which has been the deadliest drug in the city for the past seven years. They looked at 2012 National Survey of Drug Use and Health to find the number of users of illegal drugs other than marijuana. Given that half of the people going into treatment programs are heroin users, they cut that number in half. (Which, if you ask me, assumes unfairly that no drug is more likely than another to put a user in rehab.) They then estimated heroin use among Baltimore’s homeless population and put the two numbers together.

The new number is the first step in the mayor’s plan to address Baltimore’s drug abuse problem, which involves increasing access to treatment programs and improving the relationship between treatment centers and their surrounding communities.


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