Heroin Overdoses Affect Montgomery County Residents

by Leah Peloff ‘18

For decades, heroin was pre- dominantly found on the streets of urban, poor neighborhoods all around the country. Recent- ly, however, this deadly drug has spread to a wide variety of people from all different walks of life. Montgomery County has unfortunately been hit hard with this epidemic, leading to a total of 33 tragic deaths in 2014. This number is up from only eleven in 2011.

With this recent surge of her- oin use devastating the county, a TV special called “Heroin – The Quiet Epidemic” was created to inform the Montgomery County population. In this documentary, MCPD drug enforcement of cer Jason Cokinos elaborates by say- ing how police of cers have been working overtime trying to curb the evident spread of such a horri- ble drug to previously clean sub- urban areas of the county. “You cannot say a particular group of individuals are using heroin. I mean, it’s all genders, ages, races, economic status; it’s hitting every group and class of people,” said Cokinos.

In addition to the police, a group called Surviving Our Ul- timate Loss, otherwise known as SOUL, has emerged in order to spread awareness and sup- port for Montgomery County families who have loved ones who are struggling with, or have died from, a heroin addiction. It consists of mostly women and attempts to demonstrate the im- pact of this drug on anyone, not just the stereotypical drug addict. These women know how mon- strous opium can be: “It was as if [my son] had been caught by a tsunami and we were trying to pull him away from it,” said SOUL member Linda Hudman in the documentary.

Due to this epidemic, nation- ally there have been some reme- dial actions taken by the FDA to hopefully save as many lives as possible. Narcan, a nasal spray that blocks or reverses the effects of opium, is carried by rst re- sponders or can be prescribed to family, friends, or caregivers of someone at risk of a deadly opi- um overdose.

Additionally, the Good Sa- maritan law, which will become effective October 15, 2015 in Maryland, provides immunity from criminal prosecution when a person calls 911 during a drug or alcohol-related emergency. Some form of this law is currently pres- ent in all 50 states. According to the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, in Maryland, “If someone calls 911 in an effort to help during an overdose crisis, or they are experiencing an over- dose, their parole and probation status will not be affected, and they will now not be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for pos- session of a controlled dangerous substance, possession or use of drug paraphernalia or providing alcohol to minors.”

As bene cial as these acts may seem, both of these raise controversy because they may provide a false sense of security to those at risk of overdosing, dis- couraging them from sobriety.

Governor Larry Hogan has also budgeted an additional $3 million for addiction treatments in prisons, starting next year, and released more than $2 million last year to disrupt drug traf cking, launch a public awareness cam- paign about the dangers of drug addiction, and increase access to rehabilitation.

Despite the efforts from sup- port groups, the police, and gov- ernment legislation and funding, the national heroin epidemic con- tinues to strike close to home.