BALTIMORE — With the nation’s attention focused on ending the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health crisis of drug addiction hit a record high.
According to the latest data from the CDC, more than 87,000 people died from drug overdoses over the 12 month period that ended in September of last year. It’s the most ever recorded since the opioid epidemic began in the 90s.
The problem is also getting worse in Maryland. In the state, more than 2,700 people died from drug and alcohol overdoses in 2020
It was also record and a number that increased nearly 20 percent compared to last year.
Sidney Klebs, who stopped using heroin and fentanyl for nearly two years, said she relapsed during the pandemic.
“It was very stressful. I forgot that I had a disease that kills tens of thousands of people a year,” she said. “I was stuck with myself.”
She said she did seek help, but since many treatments centers moved their services online; the power of her addiction ultimately took over.
“I just stopped going to meetings on zoom and I stopped showing and I stopped doing the right thing.”
Michael Silberman is the co-founder of Amatus Recovery, which has 3 treatment centers in the Baltimore area. He said Amatus saw a 22 percent increase in patients during the pandemic.
He also said he knows of at least 16 treatments centers that were forced to close last year, leaving many people who struggle with addiction with few places to turn.
“The lack of bed space only caused more issues because there was no where else to go,” he said.
Silberman believes drug addiction is an overlooked public health crisis. In order to solve it, he said the country needs to take a more proactive approach.
“Funding for narcan is great, but that funding needs to be allocated to more treatment and more beds,” he said.
Even before many treatment centers closed in the state, there was already a shortage of bed space, Silberman said.
He added for to get people the treatment they need, the state needs to remove certain barriers so more facilities can open .
For Klebs, it’s what she needed. She received help from Amatus, which allowed her to get back clean.
“They accepted me,” she said. “I felt like I was wanted.”