WMDT 47 NEWS - A special task force in Worcester County called "Operation: Circle Of Trust" is now actively working to take down heroin dealers and users. But they admit they're noticing a troubling new statistic.
Addicts, as well as those selling heroin, are getting younger. This past September, undercover detectives in Worcester County, Maryland made 18 heroin related arrests. Of that number, exactly half are between the ages of 19 and 22.
About 8 years ago, Worcester County Drug Court coordinator, Tracy Simpson, started working with the program. At that time, she says she worked mostly with addicts of cocaine and crack cocaine. "Very rarely did I hear of anyone using heroin," admits Simpson.
It was 4 years later, when she started seeing the shift towards opioid abuse, when prescription drug abusers started making their way through the justice system. Law enforcement reacted, by cracking down on prescription drugs across the peninsula. "The pill market essentially dried up," explains Worcester County State's Attorney, Beau Oglesby, "and they had to basically turn their attention, or their focus, onto another source."
And that was heroin, a cheaper, more readily available, alternative. Oglesby tells WMDT about a decade ago, most of the heroin abusers who made their way through the justice system ranged in age from 35 to 50. But in just the last 2 years, more of the arrests were teens.
"What triggered it for me," remembers Oglesby, "was I started seeing people being arrested and prosecuted, by myself, that did not fit into the typical drug profile." Talking to these young people, prosecutors and health experts in Worcester County found out they were getting hooked on pills they found in their own homes.
"When they see something in a cabinet, or at a friend's house in a cabinet, or something that they think is safe, because it's a medication, why would they think that isn't safe?" explains Simpson.
But when the addiction sets in, and the pills run out, that's when things take a quick and dangerous turn. Simpson says it can take users as little as 1 to 2 years to go from pill poppers to full blown heroin addicts, "It's not a long process. I think people are under the misassumption that it is. But I have 19-year-olds who are intravenous users."
How are young people getting their hands on an elicit drug like heroin? Apparently it's not from a drug dealer on some street corner. Undercover officers tell WMDT the heroin drug trade has changed over the years, and those people dealing the drug aren't what you'd expect. In Part 3 of this special series WMDT talks with undercover detectives who share the inner workings of this troubling new trend.
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