Drugs in Harford County: It's a Problem

The commander of the Harford County Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit and Harford County Taskforce visited the Citizen's Police Academy last week.


Surrounded by high drug concentration areas, Harford County is no exception when it comes to the growing problem of illegal use and sale of drugs: it's everywhere.

With illegal drugs come other problems.

"The vast majority of crimes are driven by drugs," Captain Duane Williams, head of the Special Investigations Division and the Harford County Taskforce, told members of the Citizen's Police Academy last week.

The academy is a 15-week program designed to provide residents with a better understanding of the sheriff's office and its operations and to foster a partnership between the office and the communities it serves, according to the sheriff's office website.

From stealing items out of cars to pawn in order to buy drugs, to breaking into a home with the same goal, to robbing a pharmacy at gunpoint, crimes small and large can be traced back to drugs.

The , narcotics such as Oxycontin.

"It is taking the country by storm, it's everywhere," Williams said of prescription drug abuse.

He estimated that out of the numerous tips the drug taskforce receives, three out of every four pertain to pharmaceuticals.

In 2009 and 2010, the taskforce seized less than 1,000 opioid drugs, or pills. with the taskforce seizing about 6,000.

"We weren't ready for it to explode the way it did," Williams said.

Williams said the taskforce is seizing more prescription medications because they are the most commonly abused in the county at this time, and because now that investigators are aware of the problem, they are looking for it.

He said the appeal of these drugs is that using them gives the same high as heroin. The drugs can also be as easy to get as peeking into grandma's medicine cabinet or visiting the doctor.

As opposed to heroin or other illegal drugs, which can be tampered with or mixed with dangerous substances, prescription medications are regulated by the government.

Williams said a group of investigators with the taskforce now focuses primarily on prescription narcotics investigations.

"There's more work than they know what to do with," Williams said, later adding, "you can only do so many investigations and do them well."

Williams said the number of investigations conducted by the taskforce has decreased while the number of arrests has increased during the past two years. He credited this shift to the additional wiretaps and a focus on organizations.

In 2011, the taskforce conducted more than 120 investigations and made more than 160 arrests. In 2010, the taskforce conducted fewer than 120 investigations and fewer than 140 arrests and in 2009, conducted more than 140 investigations and made more than 160 arrests, according to Williams.

The average prescription drug abuser ranges from age 18 to 25, however, there are also those of all ages who abuse prescription drugs.

"Pharmaceuticals are really ones that cross everything; gender, ages," Williams said.

Williams said despite the growing problem, the taskforce is making strides. Williams said that for the past seven years, the taskforce has been top in the state based on performance, seizures and other factors.

"We consistently are out-performing a lot of the taskforces in the area," Williams said.

Last year, . With the designation comes additional resources and federal dollars to help address drug issues in the county.

"I-95 is a drug trafficking corridor," Williams said. "Geographically, we fit into the puzzle."

Williams said that in addition to location, the overall problem, number of arrests, presence of gangs in the area and number of overdose deaths contributed to Harford becoming part of a HIDTA region.

RN-CCRN/ChemDep April 05, 2012 at 01:56 PM
There is a major oppoid problem and it is an epidemic and it will keep continuing because people chose not to educate themselves on the disease. It is not cheap nor free for anyone to get into rehab and when an addict tries to get help and goes to the local ER's most of the hospital staff look down their nose at the addict and judge them and act as if they do not want help. They act as if they are just there seeking their next fix! That is not always true some come there seeking help because they do not have money for rehab and do not know what to do or where to turn! We need to educate our children at a young age and it needs to be a stronger part of our H CPS systems teaching.
RN-CCRN/ChemDep April 05, 2012 at 01:56 PM
We need to educate our medial staff that are working in our ER's we need to make sure that there are social worker /case managers on staff at all hours of the night as well as behavioral health staff available not just available from 9-5 most addicts come to ER   All hours of the day and night. Every addict is someone's child, don't be so narrow minded, everyone need a 2nd chance and everyone makes mistakes. Addiction is a disease, you wouldn't turn ur back on some one who has cancer so don't do it to a addict! Addiction is like a cancer, it kills and  addiction can also be in remission like cancer, when the addict is in recovery and working a program after going to a rehab. Rehab's cost between $10,000.00 to $80,000.00 and most do not take insurance and you most have at least half of the cost upfront before admission. Not all or even most insurances will even pay for rehab or even a portion.
RN-CCRN/ChemDep April 05, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Sorry for the spelling errors didn't spell check it while txting from phone.
Ashley April 05, 2012 at 02:32 PM
It *could* be a gateway drug for the people with an addictive personality. Most people, no. If that were the case we'd have to shut down all the bars because all those people with addictive personalities are going to take their partying too far. I'm sorry, but addiction is not a disease. It's a lack of self control and comparing it to cancer (or any other terminal disease) is preposterous. You can't just wake up one day and be like "Oh! I think I'll stop having cancer today!". You don't choose to have cancer. Addicts chose their lifestyle. It's all a matter of never putting yourself in that situation to begin with. My fiancee's mother is an addict. She disgusts me. Irresponsible, lack of self control, and a complete waste of a human life. She could be a decent person, if she wanted to, but she doesn't care. That's why she started with the drinking. Every addict has a reason they start doing something and to say that they became an addict because addiction is a disease is just ridiculous. That's like saying my car is going to get into an accident on it's own. I absolutely don't think insurance should pay for rehab. They should have never let themselves get into that situation to begin with.
tee April 05, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Addittion is a disease yes it start off by poor decisions than it pulls u in and before u know it ur dependent on a drug doing anything u need to inorder to get that drug to make u feel better otherwise u are deathly sick. I comefrom a family of recovered addicts. It took years for me to better understand and which I never fully will b.c I have never experinced it.I think its good that they are getting on top of shit that's good if only other countys could do the same they would save lives
Ashley April 05, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Again though, it all goes back to choices. Is it WORTH staying on the drug to avoid the sickness? I'm well acquainted with addiction and it's causes and effects. Both of my fiancee's parents are addicts (well, just his mother now, his father had a heart attack and died from smoking crack), and I've had several friends who ended up on heroin. Those couple of friends who ended up on heroin also all came off of it. Without rehab. They were sick as hell and ended up detoxing in a hospital, but none of them ever touched it again when they got clean. It's about what you want out of life and what you're willing to do for it. Choices and control.
C/O1998 April 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Gateway drugs alcohol and pot? Nah I really do not think so but that is your opinion. Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Morphine, Dilaudid, Meth, Crack and Heroin are gateway drugs because of the high addiction. 3 young adults were lost to heroin, aren't you violating HIPPA by even saying this? because all I have to do is look up the most recent deaths, age, etc and figure out who. If you are a RN chem Dep maybe you should explain further. "Who" who are these addicts? "What" occured for these people to become addicts? "How" can these addicts afford their drug of choice? "Why" are these people enabled? To be honest these people are going for the prescription drugs because" it's legal and they can get 90 day supplies meaning pills ranging from 90 to 380 and the addicts no this.
sef April 05, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Well this is certainly a very hot topic. I am thankful that I was never tempted by drugs and although I do like to have a cold beer now and then, it has never been something I have needed to do on a regular basis. I am surprised at the abuse that is taking place with prescription drug use and especially with those of my age which is 50-60 bracket. We lead by example and we are not setting very good ones for our children and/or grandchildren.
Rachel Elizabeth April 05, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Ashley, You are either very stupid, or the type of person who thinks they know everything. Just because your fiancée's parents are addicts doesn't mean you know anything about addiction. You are seeing it from a very limited outside point of view. It's very hard to know what addiction is like and how it affects your life unless you've been through it. It's rare that your friends who where hooked on heroin are still clean. That or you are extremely naive. Studies show that addicts who come off of drugs without rehab/counseling are almost 90% guaranteed to be back on their drug within 1 year. In very few instances can an addict "just decide" they want to stop, and actually be successful. Once they go through the detox and withdrawals, they are going to need to be in a rehab where they can receive counseling, and be in an environment where they aren't being tempted. If someone is severely hooked on opiates, it will take up to 18 months for your receptors in your brain and your brain's ability to produce serotonin to fully recover. Even after a person goes through withdrawal, they won't start to feel normal until about a year after they stopped. "It's about what you want out of life." That may be easy for you to say, but unless you've been in their place you will never know. No matter how bad they want to change, when someone is addicted to drugs the drugs will have such a strong hold over them. The real change comes from being in rehab and learning to live life sober.
Ashley April 05, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I'm not saying that it doesn't take time to recover from drug abuse, but I don't believe it's a disease. It's a show of weak character, in my opinion, and I believe that by pushing this "addiction is a disease" concept only furthers our societies perceptions that all problems they come across in life can be blamed on something else rather than taking responsibility for their lives and the consequences of the choices they make. Addiction is a very hard thing to deal with, I don't deny that, but I believe that anyone who is strong and willing can face and defeat that without the help of rehab. Problem is that people are weak and have been coddled for far too long and it's truly diminished our abilities to be responsible for ourselves.
Mike Tarbert April 05, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Freewill ! Be careful the choices you make .
Kathy Moser April 05, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Hey, If you're into a drug-free life, or thinking about it, check out this free local event! Friday April 20th at 7PM join Kathy and musical guest Trina Hamlin, for a musical celebration of recovery. The high-energy interactive show will feature songs written across the country by people in recovery. This performance is free and open to the public. Reserve your spot by calling 410-273-2303. Time: 6:30 p.m. - Registration & light refreshments 7:00-8:30 p.m. - Presentation Where: Saint Margaret Catholic Church Main Sanctuary 141 N. Hickory Avenue Bel Air, MD 21014
C/O1998 April 05, 2012 at 05:56 PM
well said
Luke Goon April 05, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Im sorry but gotta love the ignorant volunteer moms who think they know what they're talking about because they watch the news. If you smoke pot, you know if it's pot. no one just goes to 711 and asks the sketchiest person if they have drugs. worry about the prescription drugs in your cabinet and not what others have to say about the problem
Luke Goon April 05, 2012 at 06:20 PM
dont think you can ask someone why they do something if you havent O_o
Luke Goon April 05, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I dunno about the whole Gateway drug thing.. Schools jam it down your throats that drugs are bad, and create the schema of "drugs" as pot. so when you find oxycontin's you think there made by the government and my parents might of taken them and there not pot, how bad could they be. anyone that smoked pot and then started doing pills or whatever it is, probably would of eventually ended up doing them anyway. pot was just what they found first.
einstein4700 April 05, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I own a home in edgewood and I could of been killed due to a home invation where they smashed thru my front door last september but I learned my lession, now I keep 2 loaded shotguns in my home.. Too bad I didnt have the shotguns loaded at that time cause society would of been less two Balto. City born hood rats...so PPL buy urself a shotgun if need be take a gun lession if u have kids in the house make sure you abide by the proper laws while proctecting uf self since the criminals have more right in this state than the good ppl
franking April 05, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Comparing alcohol to pot or other illegal drugs is just plain silly. You could go to your service and take communion, go to lunch and have beer batter onion rings and have a glass of red wine with dinner. That's three times of use in one day, without using it to impair or change your state of mind. If you use drugs you do it to get high.
Katie April 05, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Pat April 06, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Drug addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. There is some credible research that suggests that people who have what is termed " addictive chemistry" may very well have a deficiency in the brain chemicals that are essential to a sense of wellbeing. When a person with that chemistry takes a drug like pot or alcohol, they experience normal wellbeing and it is something they feel a great need to continue . Those who do not have the deficiency can " take or leave" the drug- no big deal .It is hard for a person with normal chemistry to understand why someone gets " hooked". We chalk it up as weakness, poor choices, stupidity- yadayada. But for the person with the addictive chemistry it become a physical imperative to stay "well". Unfortunately, because tolerance develops, it begins to take more and stronger drugs to maintain that sense of wellbeing and the original chemical deficiency becomes more pronounced as the body shuts down production of the chemicals that are being replaced by the effects of " self medication". So. For SOME pot, alcohol IS a gateway drug- the beginning of a continuous search to self medicate for a progressive chemical imbalance. Unfortunately, you do not necessarily know if you are vulnerable to addiction until you have started down that slippery slope.
Pat April 06, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Once you become addicted, escape is monstrously difficult. Physical withdrawal is hideous and the psychological withdrawal can take years. For some the brain chemistry restoration is a long ,long time coming. Many addicts cannot expect to have a normal sense of wellbeing for a long long time- if ever. That is why even the most expensive rehab programs have a 20% success rate. And that is why we need to treat drug addiction in a more comprehensive way. IF those of us who are lucky enough to have normal chemistry could get past judging the addict, we might be able to take the crime out of addiction- which would be such a plus for our society at large. And then we might have a better chance of restoring these people to health so that they will have a better shot at becoming productive "well" citizens.
sp0t April 06, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Comparing alcohol to marijuana is actually a very reasonable argument, with the only difference being that society has accepted the prohibition of alcohol as a failure. The war on drugs has cost our country millions of dollars and the only perceivable effect is the rise of violence and drug cartels in Mexico and the U.S. (similar to the effects of Prohibition). And honestly, at the end of the day you've described above you have only had one sip of wine at church and a glass of wine at dinner. Those who smoke pot know that the equivalent in marijuana (say a puff in the morning and a small joint in the evening) has almost the same effect, and yet we still insist that one form of intoxication is more acceptable than the other.
RN-CCRN/ChemDep April 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
To C/O 1998 HIPPA has to do with people that I treat/care for, any personal information and any medical records I have reviewed, NOT the articles that make the front page of the local paper back in December 2011 & January 2012. The article made the front page of The Aegis which stated the facts about the recent overdoses and where they occured in Harford County, also gave their names, ages, and other personal information. So there is no HIPPA issue / violation. Educate yourself about the terms/laws. As well as the issues that have been making the front page of the Aegis. Get your information and facts straight before assuming or false accusing anyone of breaking a law or anything else. You know what is said about ASSUMING!
RN-CCRN/ChemDep April 06, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Rachel Elizabeth, You are so right I am so glad to see that there are other people out there that are educated on the Disease of Addiction, I hope you share your knowledge and educate others.
RN-CCRN/ChemDep April 06, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I agree Pat!
Dirt McGirt April 06, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Drugs are bad. Mmmmkay?
Based God April 08, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Volunteer mom... what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Luke Goon April 11, 2012 at 03:58 PM
1.) Do you like sleep? 2.) Do you like food? Case closed
Kramer April 29, 2012 at 05:17 PM
The worst drug of them all is the one you can purchase at your local liquor store, what were they thinking when they decided to legalize alcohol.
Kramer April 29, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Im guessing they didnt stop to think about all the innocent Mothers / Fathers along with their children who would lose their life due to the self medicated alcoholic. Leave it up to the goverment to ruin lives.


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