Regional Heroin Ring Dismantled, 11 Indicted in Alexandria

According to a March 20, 2017 article on entitled, Regional heroin ring dismantled, 11 indicted in Alexandria, “A rash of heroin overdoses in Alexandria launched a yearlong investigation that crossed into six communities on both side of the Potomac River and disrupted a trafficking network that has pushed nearly $1 million worth of heroin onto the region’s streets, Virginia authorities said Monday.”

“Eleven men and women from Northern Virginia and Prince George’s County, Maryland, have been indicted on charges of racketeering, illegal drug possession and distribution, the Alexandria City Police Department announced Monday.”

“This didn’t come from a few drug deals on a street corner,” said Gary Settle, director of the Virginia State Police criminal investigative bureau. “These men and women were organized. They were part of a complex network responsible for trafficking thousands of dollars worth of heroin and cocaine throughout the region – heroin that came very close to costing people their lives.”

The overdoses were reported by local emergency rooms and community members. Investigators found a common distributor that linked those non-fatal cases, Settle said.” To read the full article, click here.

KNOW About the "911 Good Samaritan Fatal Overdose Prevention Law"?

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, "Accidental overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents among people ages 25 to 64. Many of these deaths are preventable if emergency medical assistance is summoned, but people using drugs or alcohol illegally often fear arrest if they call 911, even in cases where they need emergency medical assistance for a friend or family member at the scene of a suspected overdose."

"The best way to encourage overdose witnesses to seek medical help is to exempt them from arrest and prosecution for minor drug and alcohol law violations, an approach often referred to as Good Samaritan 911...Good Samaritan laws do not protect people from arrest for other offenses, such as selling or trafficking drugs, or driving while drugged. These policies protect only the caller and overdose victim from arrest and/or prosecution for simple drug possession, possession of paraphernalia, and/or being under the influence."

Twenty states including Maryland and the District of Columbia have enacted such policies. To read the complete article, click here.  For a vivid illustration of the law in action, view this Public Service Announcement (PSA). 


Mutliple Opioid Overdoses Close to Home

WBAL News Radio 1090 reported the following story today entitled, “Opioid Overdose Hits Anne Arundel County Hard This Week”: 

“In less than 24 hours, more than a dozen people in Anne Arundel County this week overdosed. Three of them died. The Anne Arundel County Health Department sent out an alert to citizens reminding them to watch for signs of overdose in loved ones or strangers and to call 9-1-1 if they see any of the signs.

Health officials say there were 14 opiate overdoses from Tuesday to Wednesday. Those people were using drugs like heroin, fentanyl (a synthetic form of heroin), Percocet and OxyContin. Anne Arundel County Police told the Capital Gazette that many of the overdoses happened in the northern and western sections of the county. The county also offers training in giving someone Narcan, a heroin overdose reversal drug.” 

Note: The Capital Gazette reported there were 16 overdoses.

For concerns, questions or to find Naloxone (brand name Narcan) training in Howard County, contact HC DrugFree at 443-325-0040 or



"Drunk Suit" Experiment

On March 2, NBC Today demonstrated the use of a scientifically engineered "drunk suit" which simulates alcohol's effects on the body. To view the video, go to:

The following article entitled, "Drunk suit dramatically shows the dangers of drunk driving" accompanied the video: 

"Just days ago, a driver plowed into pedestrians at a Mardi Gras parade, injuring 28 people. Some are still in the hospital. Police say the 25-year-old behind the wheel had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, every day 28 people die in crashes involving alcohol. Now experts at Ford are trying to stop it by developing a scientifically engineered "drunk suit." They're trying it on teenagers in an effort to get them "scared straight," part of a program called Ford Driving Skills for Life.

TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen tried on the drunk suit, which included weights on his knees and arms and literal "beer goggles" to limit his view. When he went through a sobriety test during a simulated traffic stop as well as driving an obstacle course, all while wearing the suit, the results were dramatic."


Article Addresses Inconsistencies in the Law

HC DrugFree's legal advisor David Zwanetz, an attorney and partner with Shapiro Zwanetz and Associates, recently wrote an article entitled “Wacky Weed” about the inconsistencies in the law.

To read the article,  click here

Maryland's Governor Declares a State of Emergency

At the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) on Wednesday, March 1, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in response to the rapid escalation of the heroin and opioid crisis in Maryland. With deaths doubling since last year involving these drugs, Governor Hogan considered the heroin and opioid epidemic to be a natural disaster.

"With this continuing threat increasing at such an alarming rate, we must allow for rapid coordination with our state and local emergency teams," Hogan said. The Governor issued the state of emergency mainly to cut through red tape to give local emergency agencies more flexibility for prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts.

The State of Emergency will assist the efforts of Maryland’s Lt. Governor, Boyd Rutherford, as he heads the governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force. Governor Hogan pledged an additional $50 million in State funding and continues to seek federal funds. Clay Stamp, Former MEMA Director who will lead the emergency coordination around the state said, "We have people dying every day in this state right now. (There's) probably no more important endeavor that I've been involved in my career in emergency management than what we're facing."

To view Governor Hogan's announcement on WBAL, click here.


Follow Up to "A Local Sister Lost to Heroin"

Today, The Baltimore Sun ran the article, "Maryland scrambling to deal with surging rate of heroin overdose deaths." An accompanying video follows up our posting from January 2 about Taylor Sprague who died of a heroin overdose at age 21 on December 31, 2015. Her mother and sister share their feelings when they got the news and how it has affected them since that day.

They describe how Taylor’s death changed the way look they at things, that it affected their health and relationships, and that the police announcement that she died of a heroin overdose had to be wrong – they never dreamed that their college honor student and former General Assembly Page could have been using drugs.

Kylie & Kerri Sprague express that they wish they had known the signs, known that nodding off and breaking out were not just symptoms of an overworked student. They also warn that death from a drug overdose can affect anyone and that it does not pick and choose.

To read the article and view their video, go to:

Deprescribing Drugs - When More Is Less

Wikipedia defines deprescribing as “the process of intentionally stopping a medication or reducing its dose to improve the person's health or reduce the risk of adverse side effects”. In a January 30, 2017 Washington Post article entitled, “Prescribing drugs is good. So is deprescribing”, local physician Ranit Mishori discusses what doctors are taught about prescribing drugs and that they are not taught a lot about deprescribing.

Mishori writes, “Starting in the second year of medical school (course name: pharmacology) and continuing through residency training and beyond, doctors are taught how to prescribe drugs. Here’s some of what we learn: which drugs are best for different conditions (for high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, pain and so on); which antibiotic is best for which type of infection; what are the most beneficial dosages and how frequently should certain drugs be taken; what is the best route for certain drugs (oral, rectal, IV); what the common side effects of most drugs are; which drugs are better for children, which for adults. There is much to know, and doctors have to stay up-to-date constantly, on old and new medications, recalls, generics, brand names, warning labels.”

“Drugs have an important place. But rarely do we teach young doctors – that is one of the things I do now – how and when to deprescribe a drug. Doing so is not as simple as saying “stop”. Deprescribing is its own process, requiring extreme caution and a certain skill on the part of the physician. It is a skill, however, that is not being taught, and it is barely studied to develop best practices.” 

Mishori is a professor of family medicine and the director of the Health and Media Fellowship in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. To read the entire article, click here:

Breaking Heroin's Grip: Road to Recovery

On February 11, Maryland Public Television premiered "Breaking Heroin's Grip: Road to Recovery", a program that examined the stories of three Maryland residents in rural and urban settings with an opioid use disorder; this program concentrated on their individual struggles and recovery from addiction. Produced by MPT in association with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Behavioral Health Administration, this is a poignant and personal program shedding light on our region's pressing heroin problem. To watch the program and to view related videos such as "Breaking Heroin's Grip: Peer-to-peer recovery" and "Breaking Heroin's Grip: Long-term recovery", click here:


Chasing the Dragon - The Life of An Opiate Addict (Edited Version)

In this powerful video produced by the FBI and the DEA, witness first-hand the journeys into addiction and continuing struggles of opioid addictions. With this epidemic on the rise in Howard County, we need to arm ourselves and our families with the truth and understand the realities of opioid misuse.

Public Warning: 7 Overdose Deaths in 2 Hours in Westminster, MD

On January 27, 2017, a public warning was issued by Carroll County health officials after 7 heroin overdoses occurred between 10:00 a.m. and noon that day in Westminster. Ed Singer, an officer at the Carroll County Health Department stated, "That made us very concerned that there was a potentially more deadly mix out on the streets than what people are commonly dealing with."

Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths in USA, 2010-2015

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as presented in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from December 30, 2016, the U.S. opioid epidemic is continuing, and drug overdose deaths nearly tripled during 1999–2014. The CDC summarized the article as follows:

What is already known about this topic?

The U.S. opioid epidemic is continuing. Drug overdose deaths nearly tripled during 1999–2014. In 2014, among 47,055 drug overdose deaths, 61% involved an opioid. During 2013–2014, deaths associated with the most commonly prescribed opioids (natural/semisynthetic opioids) continued to increase slightly; however, the rapid increase in deaths appears to be driven by heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone.

What is added by this report?

From 2014 to 2015, the death rate from synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased by 72.2%, and heroin death rates increased by 20.6%. Rates of death involving heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone increased across all demographic groups, regions, and in numerous states. Natural/semisynthetic opioid death rates increased by 2.6%, whereas, methadone death rates decreased by 9.1%.

What are the implications for public health practice?

There is an urgent need for a multifaceted, collaborative public health and law enforcement approach to the opioid epidemic, including implementing the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain; improving access to and use of prescription drug monitoring programs; expanding naloxone distribution; enhancing opioid use disorder treatment capacity and linkage into treatment, including medication-assisted treatment; implementing harm reduction approaches, such as syringe services program; and supporting law enforcement strategies to reduce the illicit opioid supply.

Click here to read the full article.

A Local Sister Lost to Heroin

Taylor was a smart, beautiful girl with a lot to live for. At 21, she overdosed on Heroin leaving her younger sister, Kylie, to live without her. As a country, state and county, we are losing far too many young people to heroin overdoses. 

County Executive Allan Kittleman, the Howard County Health Department and HC DrugFree invite you to view this new public service announcement. 

One-Third of Long-Term Users Say They're Hooked on Prescription Opioids

The Washington Post released an article stating that one-third of Americans who have taken prescription opioids for at least two months say they became addicted to, or physically dependent on, the powerful painkillers, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

All long-term users surveyed said that they were introduced to the drugs by a doctor’s prescription, not by friends or through illicit means. But more than 6 in 10 said doctors offered no advice on how or when to stop taking the drugs. And 1 in 5 said doctors provided insufficient information about the risk of side effects, including addiction.

The survey raises sharp questions about the responsibility of doctors for an epidemic of addiction and overdose that has claimed nearly 180,000 lives since 2000. Opioid deaths surged to more than 30,000 last year, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with deaths from heroin alone surpassing the toll from gun homicides. 

Read More

Surgeon General Released First Report Dedicated to Substance Misuse and Related Disorders

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health was released today. According to the report, alcohol and drug misuse, substance use disorders and addiction are the most pressing public health concern facing America. The release of today’s landmark report marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders. 

To read report:

A Call For Mylan CEO Heather Bresch To Reduce EpiPen Price And Resign

It was one year ago, August 25, 2015, when my one-year-old daughter Cecelia almost died of anaphylaxis. She had asked for a banana but we wanted her to eat more than just fruit. My wife served her a peanut butter substitute and jam on bread. We were cooking dinner for ourselves when we first saw the tell-tale red blotches and hives.

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Obama Administration Funds New Projects to Disrupt Prescription Opioid, Fentanyl and Heroin Trafficking

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Obama Administration announced $17 million in funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) across the country. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program helps Federal, state, and local authorities address emerging drug threats by coordinating drug enforcement operations, supporting prevention efforts and improving public health and safety.

Click here to read full News Release by The White House

Scientists Engineer An Opioid That May Reduce Pain With Less Risk

Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

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Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission granted preliminary approval to 15 medical marijuana growers and 15 processors

The potential licensees comprise a diverse group of principals, executives and corporate officers including Maryland residents associated with long-time established Maryland businesses, entrepreneurs, women and minority-operated enterprises. Seven of the Processors are affiliated with Growers who received Stage One pre-approvals.

Click here for printable press release.