Wicomico Co. Sheriff Helps Shed Light on Heroin Epidemic in Md. - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Wicomico Co. Sheriff Helps Shed Light on Heroin Epidemic in Md.

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 BALTIMORE, Md.- A small army of law enforcement officers, including Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, recently took a trip to Columbia, South America, where officials say 80 percent of the drug is coming from that is impacting the region.

Dr. James Cockey, a physical deputy health officer with the Wicomico County Health Department, said he does not see much improvement with the growing epidemic of heroin abuse.

"As of the end of June, we had seven heroin overdose deaths," Cockey said. "Last year, for the entire year, we had 12 overdose deaths from heroin out of 17 overdose deaths from various drugs and alcohol."

Wicomico County Sheriff, Mike Lewis, joined Assistant Special Agent Gary Tuggle of Baltimore's Drug Administration Office and three police executives on a fact finding mission to Columbia during the first week of November.

"There's a number of people I see come into my office on a weekly basis, whose loved ones, whose neighbors, whose friends or relatives are suffering from drug addiction," Lewis said. He spoke about the importance of treatment and the need to combat the trend.

The trip was sponsored and funded by the DEA. Officials said drug trafficking networks in South and Central America have increased cultivation and production of heroin as a result of America's increased addiction. Tuggle said 80 percent of the supply comes from Columbia.

"We're seeing a whole new subculture of heroin addicts being created as a result of misuse and abuse of prescription opiates,"  Tuggle said.

He described how law enforcement officials plan to tackle the issue.

"One is strengthening our partnerships with prevention and treatment and the other is  intelligence sharing " Tuggle said. He also said educating officers on the front line about heroin abuse is another step in the right direction. 

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