Deaths from drug and alcohol overdose dropped slightly last year in Baltimore, reports the Baltimore Sun. The decline continues a downward trend from the peak a decade ago. In 2007, 235 city residents died from overdose in Baltimore, down from 244 the previous year. Health officials said the decline suggests that drug use in the city may be declining. “The numbers are most likely a reflection of how many people are using,” said Caroline Fichtenberg, the Health Department’s chief epidemiologist. It wasn’t clear why drug use may be dropping, but better prevention and treatment programs may play a role.
Despite the small improvement, Baltimore is in the throes of a severe public health problem. “The drug problem is enormous,” said Bill Latimer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The overdose deaths are an important statistic, but just the tip of the iceberg.” Baltimore’s death rate from overdose of all drugs, including prescription medicines, was 35 per 100,000 in 2004. For the U.S. as a whole, the rate was 10.5 per 100,000. The largest decrease in the city came from cocaine-related deaths, which fell from 116 in 2006 to 90. The drop came a year after a precipitous increase, from 52 in 2005.