Heroin deaths on the rise in Maryland

WASHINGTON — Two top prosecutors are speaking out in hopes of curbing the alarming rise of heroin deaths in Maryland.

“We’ve seen a doubling of heroin deaths just in three years,” says Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for Maryland.

While the state’s murder rate has fallen to record lows, Rosenstein says, deaths from heroin are at record highs.

“We had 10 people, on average, die of heroin doses every week in Maryland last year,” Rosenstein says.

Heroin deaths have also jumped dramatically in recent years in the District and Virginia.  The drug is inexpensive  at $10 a dose, and its purity is often uncertain. Sometimes it’s mixed with other dangerous substances.

“The numbers that we are looking at are terrifying,” says John McCarthy, Montgomery County State’s Attorney,  who says the problem touches every corner of the state.

“Our most recent death occurred in a country club community in Montgomery County … western Maryland, eastern Maryland — this is a scourge across all of Maryland,” McCarthy says.

Rosenstein and McCarthy recently wrote in the Baltimore Sun that heroin-related deaths jumped 88 percent from 2011 to 2013, from 247 to 464, and by another 46 percent in the first half of 2014.

Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan made a campaign promise to combat heroin in the state.

McCarthy is asking the incoming governor to help him secure a new state law that would hold drug dealers responsible for drug deaths.

“I’m very much in favor of working with the legislature, trying to get them to give us an additional tool that would mirror the federal statute, allowing us to prosecute those who are the purveyors of heroin for the deaths that they cause,” McCarthy says.

Rosenstein is eager to spread the word about the dangers of heroin.

“The goal is to stop people from starting down that road in the first place,” Rosenstein says.

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