May 8th, 2015

Baltimore: A Battleground In The War On Drugs

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week instead of the usual written essay, I am posting a “photo essay” with captions based on photographs that I took in Baltimore during the unrest there following the death of Freddie Gray. This highlights the war of drugs.

People with substance use disorders, along with their families, often become casualties in what is termed the “War on Drugs.” Questions are increasingly being raised about the effectiveness of aggressive policing—one of the tactics used in this “war” and one of the contributors to these casualties.  

The same weekend that the riots started, the new “drug czar,” Michael Botticelli, spoke at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. I was heartened to hear him say that it was time to move away from heavily punitive strategy—a cornerstone in Federal government efforts to address the drug problem in this country—towards one that emphasizes treatment.  If this in fact occurs, my expectation is that we will see far fewer of the scenes that I have captured in these photos.


Guarding MedChiHaving soldiers carrying automatic weapons created surreal contrasts.GuardsmenCouch Fire

The burnt remains of an abandoned couch, which had been set on fire during the night. The flames had traveled up this telephone pole and destroyed the transformer serving the medical society offices, which were left without electricity and phone service. State troopers watch from across Maryland Avenue.Rite Aid BoardedSeveral pharmacies were looted. As I was taking this photo, a woman drove into the parking lot, distressed about how to get her medications with so many pharmacies now unavailable.

  1. Kids Outside of SymphonyMembers of the Baltimore community turned out in force to try to restore peace. This free concert the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gave was attended by many children.


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