Last night, the National Geographic Channel aired an episode of their Drugs, Inc. series that was all about Baltimore and its status as “the heroin capital of America.” While many saw the episode as an inconvenient truth for those who would like to attract new non-heroin-seeking residents to the city, Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodrick’s takes Nat Geo’s claim head-on. Baltimore is no heroin capital, he says.
According to Rodricks, the data point that Drugs, Inc. — and others before them — have used to decide that Baltimore is Heroin Town and that as many as one in 10 Baltimoreans are addicted is spurious. Sixty-thousand was a number come up with “years ago to quantify Baltimoreans with some sort of substance abuse problem,” Rodricks writes, and it stuck. As vague as that is already, the Sun determined in 2005 that it “was, at best, a hit-or-miss guess to begin with.
The current estimate of heroin users living in Baltimore is around 11,000. Still, far too many to write off, but Nat Geo’s stats are based on (what I for one feel more comfortable believing is) a discredited number.