Baltimore’s Drug Problem: It’s Costing Too Much Not to Spend More On it

October 1993 / Criminal Justice and Addiction / Abell Reports

October 1993

According to the 1990 census, 15 percent of Maryland’s population resides in Baltimore City, yet 27 percent of the state’s substance abusers in treatment and 67 percent of the individuals injecting drugs live in the city.

The impact of drug abuse on the city –both direct and indirect–is immense: rampant crime, over-populated jail cells, homelessness, a severe diminution of personal safety, an increasing burden on the city’s hard-strapped fiscal infrastructure, population flight to the suburbs, an overload on the city’s social services network, and a frightening increase in cases of individuals testing positive for the HIV virus.

The most effective and cost-efficient means of confronting the drug problem, according to a vast number of national studies, is through treatment programs. Yet over the last several years, at a time when drug abuse has escalated in the city, treatment slots have been pared. While the city appropriates millions of dollars for fighting the drug problem through law enforcement and the judicial system, it spends barely $150,000 of city funds annually on treatment programs. Baltimore’s capacity to offer quality treatment is diminishing just when it is most sorely needed.