Drug use is increasing nationwide. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of people reporting drug use in the past month increased from 8.3% to 9.4% – with some 24.6 million people reporting the use of an illicit drug.
Substance abuse is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year. In 2008, drug overdoses surpassed motor vehicle accidents and firearms to become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s largest public health agency, 56,000 people died of overdoses in 2015 alone.
These nationwide trends are echoing throughout the country and Laurel, Maryland has been no exception. Crime and drug use have continued to increase throughout the area, putting the community on edge.
A Drug Trafficking Problem
Community leaders have been concerned with increased drug trafficking, partially due to its close proximity to Baltimore, a major drug hub. In December, a 28-year-old man from Laurel was sentenced to 11 years in prison for involvement in drug trafficking throughout the area. According to a plea filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendant sold lots of PCP in Laurel between June and November 2015, as well as distributing heroin. Undercover police officers reported buying drugs from him on nine different occasions, totaling almost $8000. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement officials seized over 5000 grams of PCP and a loaded .38 caliber firearm.
This is only the latest in a string of such arrests throughout 2015 and 2016. In late 2015, a Bowie, MD man was arrested for distributing heroin through his music studio. And in summer 2016, a nightclub owner admitted to selling enough marijuana to open his upscale bar in Silver Springs. In September 2016, a man from Laurel was arrested for selling cocaine and heroin out of his home on Covered Wagon Drive.
More Drugs Leading To Violent Crime
Increased access to illicit drugs is creating a ripple effect, and violent crimes have also increased throughout the area. A series of drug-related crimes in December 2016 has led officials to believe the drug problem in Laurel is getting worse. In Howard County, police say drugs were found at the scene of a double shooting in the 400 block of Woodsong Court. Both men were in critical condition.
In another December incident, police were called to the scene of a domestic assault. Laurel law enforcement arrested two 27-year-olds for second-degree assault, but also found $60,000 worth of marijuana at the scene. The investigation is ongoing.
Maryland Residents Overdosing In Record Numbers
The proliferation of drugs throughout the area has also led to an increase in overdose deaths in the Baltimore area. According to the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene, there were 1,468 overdose deaths in September of 2016 alone, surpassing the 1,259 deaths in the entirety of 2015. The number of fatal overdoses has doubled in Maryland since 2010, making it one of 30 states to report similarly such drastic increases.
Officials blame the mounting death toll on heroin, prescription pain pills, and other opioids. Deaths from alcohol and many different types drugs have increased in Maryland, but the sharpest increase in overdose death in the state is related to Fentanyl, an opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The number of overdose deaths related to Fentanyl doubled between 2013 and 2014 alone.
Heroin overdoses are also driving the epidemic. According to data from The Department of Health and Hygiene, overdose deaths related to heroin experienced a 2.5 fold increase between 2011 and 2014, and the problem has only been getting worse.
Who Does Substance Abuse Affect?
People may have misleading views about what addiction “looks like,” but state data suggests drug-related illness does not discriminate by class, race, ethnicity, gender, or creed. Overdose deaths have risen across all classes, races, and genders, and in every corner of the state.
Until the state improves its infrastructure and support system, overdose deaths and drug-related illnesses throughout Maryland will only rise. Community officials in Laurel must devote resources to stopping the infiltration of drugs into the city, but they must also ensure that addicts suffering now in the city get the help they need to live long and productive lives.