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Heroin Usage on the Rise in Hagerstown Area

"A lot of the people we talk to who have an heroin addiction, will tell you that they overdose to get the high. The fact that they die during the overdose really means nothing for them because they need that high and they need to take more and more to get the high."

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - Heroin usage is on the rise in Hagerstown. The drug has caused five deaths in Washington County and six deaths in the city since November 2013.

Law enforcement officials say the recent increase can be linked to two factors. They say the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and changes in pill makeup make it harder for users to crush and smoke it.  

"The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and again a very positive thing for our community, but it stopped the doctor shop, the abuse of the pills and the access of the pills to begin with. We have the same number of people who are addicted yet they need treatment, so they're self treating by switching over to heroin," said Chief Mark Holtzman, Hagerstown Police Department. 

After every heroin overdose case the Washington County Narcotics Task Force interviews users to learn where the drugs are coming from and who's using. They say some users are as young as 15-years-old.  

"That's quite alarming when you have kids that are that young that are addicted because this isn't something they're going to be able to kick the habit by themselves," said Sheriff Doug Mullendore, Washington County Sheriff's Office. 

Across Maryland there have been 37 deaths caused by a new heroin laced with fentanyl. It hasn't caused any deaths in Washington County, but police say it's here in the area. 

"We do know we've had at least two cases where it was fentanyl that was sold as heroin. And so when you get that and you're taking a different drug other than what you think you've purchased that chances of an overdose are pretty high," said Mullendore. 

But overall many users are willing to take the risk for the high 

"A lot of the people we talk to who have a heroin addiction will tell you that they overdose to get the high. The fact that they die during the overdose really means nothing for them because they need that high, and they need to take more and more to get the high," said Mullendore.  

Officers say it'll take the community's help to combat this growing drug trend.

"Sometimes court mandated is the only answer but as equally important is the community as whole through the Health Department, the network of family, friends and other organizations, I think this is going to take a community approach to solve this problem," said Holtzman. 

To help prevent prescription drugs from hitting the streets, officers ask that residents take any old or expired prescriptions to the Washington County Sheriff's Office so they can be destroyed properly.

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