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Letters to the editor: Oct. 31, 2014

Story misleads on methadone

The Daily Record’s Oct. 16 article “Businesses, politicians bemoan spread of methadone clinics” reflects ongoing misunderstanding of methadone, which is an effective treatment for addiction to heroin and other opioids.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 114 people die every day across the nation as a result of a drug overdose. With a surge in the availability of cheap heroin, drug overdoses have increased steadily in Maryland and across the East Coast, from 649 in 2010 to 858 in 2013. For fatal overdoses in 2013, 71 percent of the 858 deaths were Caucasian and African Americans accounted for 25 percent of deaths. Baltimore city suffered 246 total overdose deaths in 2013, up from 172 in 2010. Each overdose death robs someone of their son, sister, husband, friend or other loved one.

The availability of methadone treatment in Baltimore is a critical response to this challenge. Methadone treatment plays an important role in addressing opioid use and in reducing overdose deaths. Methadone works by blocking the effects of heroin and other opioids. It relieves the craving for opiates that is a major factor in relapse and relieves symptoms associated with opiate withdrawals. Stable doses of methadone do not cause euphoria or intoxication.

In fact, many individuals who are prescribed methadone are able to function normally in society. More specifically, research has shown the positive relationship between methadone maintenance treatment and increases in employment and family stability and reductions in overdose risk and criminal behavior. Many individuals who have successfully participated in methadone treatment are now welcomed into their family’s’ homes, have gotten jobs for the first time and are able to live a previously unimaginable, normal life.

In the article, a source calls the prescribing of methadone “legalized drug dealing” — an appalling mischaracterization of a medical treatment — a medical treatment that is supported by the CDC, the National Institutes of Health and other leading authorities.

Research supports that addiction to heroin and to other opioids is a medical disorder that can be treated effectively with a combination of medication, counseling services and other recovery supports. These services are provided through medication-assisted treatment programs that also address such co-occurring diseases as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and mental health disorders. Much like the long-term medical treatments for such other chronic diseases as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, long-term methadone therapy can be a part of an effective program for addiction to heroin and other opioids.

We applaud Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for establishing the Heroin Treatment and Prevention Task Force to examine the multifaceted issues contributing to the addiction problem in the city. This move acknowledges the complexities associated with preventing substance use, addressing substance dependence through implementation of evidence-based practices and with managing the concerns around putting those practices in place.

Essentially, this task force must find a way to allow for the coexistence of a major solution to the problem — medication-assisted treatment services — with a community at times uncomfortable with that solution. Treatment programs and their neighbors must work together for the common good, or we face the real possibility of more families grieving the losses of loved ones whose deaths could have been prevented.

Dr. Gayle Jordan-Randolph

Jordan-Randolph is the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Behavioral Health Administration, which focuses on meeting needs where behavioral health and substance use intersect.


Invest in fastest rail 

Megan McArdle made some compelling points (“Does maglev make sense?,” Oct. 23) about the need for new transportation development to meet the surging population growth in the Northeast Corridor and the need for these systems to run on dedicated tracks to avoid delays. However, Ms. McArdle’s argument for investing in commuter rail upgrades alone will not address the transportation crisis we face. If we’re going to invest in something new, we should invest in the fastest and most efficient system — and that is SCMaglev, the superconducting maglev.

With its dedicated guide way and focus on passenger transit, the SCMaglev system is precisely the technology that our region’s commuters need. Traffic demand between Washington and Baltimore is expected to grow by 34 percent by 2040. Current MARC service takes about an hour, and Amtrak takes roughly 40 minutes on average. Because of its dedicated track, SCMaglev can travel at 311 mph and could make the Baltimore-D.C. trip in 15 minutes, relieving MARC, I-95 and other commuter options.

Ms. McArdle also overlooks the broader impact of a 15-minute ride from Baltimore to D.C. If a Baltimore worker can reach D.C. in the same amount of time it takes to travel from Georgetown to Capitol Hill, more businesses could be headquartered in Baltimore. Washington and Baltimore could jointly host major events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics. We need to be thinking bigger.

Yet, this is not a question of either-or. State-of-good-repair spending needs to happen, and recent developments like WMATA’s Silver Line and the proposed Purple Line could help support intracity commuters. However, a grade-separated rail system is the only way to reliably increase capacity to meet growing demand. The best dedicated solution for commuters is SCMaglev, because investing our limited financial resources in the latest technology available just makes sense.

Paul A. Tiburzi, DLA Piper LLP (US)

The writer serves as counsel to The Northeast Maglev.