According to WTOP, Maryland lawmakers proposed increasing the state’s alcohol tax r to raise money to address health disparities exacerbated by COVID-19. The increase would set the sales tax at 10%, up only 1% from the last time it was raised in 2011. Lawmakers estimate that the change would “raise an estimated $14 million a year in its first two years and $22 million annually each year after.”
The bill is not expected to be voted on until the next legislative session, which begins in January. As such, it is not clear which programs will receive the funding from the tax increase.
The term “health disparities” is broad–but in addition to COVID-19 itself–another health disparity that has become apparent during the pandemic is Substance Use Disorders. Between March and June of this year, sales of drinks like budget beer and hard seltzers increased by 27 percent. At the beginning of the pandemic, online alcohol delivery service Drizly saw a 461% increase in sales.
In communities around the country, opiate overdoses have drastically increased, although it is unclear whether or not the increase can be linked directly to COVID-19. Regardless, it would be in the state’s best interest to use a portion of the raised funds toward substance use treatment and prevention.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health pandemic that needs the country’s utmost cooperation and resources. So too is addiction. In 2017 it was estimated that 20.2 million Americans had a substance use disorder, and in 2018 there were 67,367 overdose deaths.
The same communities experiencing disparities because of COVID-19 see lack of access to treatment services. For example, a study by JAMA Psychiatry found that white people with Opioid Use Disorder are almost 35 times more likely to receive buprenorphine–a medication that curbs cravings and can prevent overdose–than people of color.
The money raised by the tax increase won’t solve either problem, but it’s time that both are addressed seriously.
If you or a loved one are struggling with drinking or drug use, there is help. At TruHealing Centers across the country, we offer the full continuum of addiction-related care, from medical detox,to residential treatment, to outpatient aftercare. To learn which level of care is the best for you, call an admissions specialist today at 10-593-0005.Addiction is treatable and recovery is possible.