ELKTON – A drug overdose has killed someone in Cecil County approximately every six days thus far in 2019.
Ray Lynn, county heroin coordinator, released that datum along with other statistics to the Cecil Whig on Monday, just two days after hundreds of people celebrated the ninth annual Cecil County Recovery Walk and Block Party near Elkton.
“It’s still predominantly heroin or heroin mixed with fentanyl,” Lynn said of the main culprit found in the systems of people who had suffered fatal overdoses this year and identified by people who had survived overdose.
Lynn estimated that 95% of the drug overdoses in Cecil County involved heroin or a mix of heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than morphine. It is not uncommon, however, for other drugs to be found in the systems of people who have suffered fatal overdoses, he noted
As of Monday morning, 489 drug overdoses had been reported in Cecil County since Jan. 1, Lynn said. Of those, he added, 47 were fatal. Monday marked the end of the 39th week of 2019.
For comparison, during the same nine-month period in 2018, 493 drug overdoses were reported in Cecil County, with 50 resulting in death.
Since January 2017, there have been 1,737 reported overdoses in Cecil County, claiming 184 lives, he reported.
One of the trends Lynn has detected is the emergence of methamphetamine — specifically crystal meth — in Cecil County. It is a highly addictive stimulant that impacts a user’s central nervous system, he explained.
“Meth is definitely increasing in Cecil County. It has been steadily on the rise during past two or three years,” Lynn said.
Lynn then emphasized that methamphetamine can be as deadly as heroin.
“So far this year, 20 people have overdosed exclusively on methamphetamine — and two of those overdoses were fatal. You can overdose on meth. Half of the (heroin-related) overdoses also involved the use of meth,” Lynn reported.
The working theory to explain the relatively recent abundance of meth is that drug cartels have flooded the drug supply with methamphetamine to compensate for lost revenue due to the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana throughout much of the nation, according to Lynn. The money that the government makes off the selling of legal marijuana in the United States and Canada translates to less cash for the cartels.
“It’s cheap to make, so they can make a lot of it,” Lynn said.
The price of meth on the street is approximately the equivalent of heroin, between about $5 to $10 for a “hit,” or dose, according to Lynn.
He noted that the methamphetamine that is originating in Mexico and is on the rise in Cecil County is called “crystal meth,” which looks like blueish-white glass. Lynn stressed that crystal meth is vastly more powerful than what some domestic dealers make, or “cook,” in their houses, garages and other places.
Also noticed by Lynn: The number of addicts in Cecil County who purposely use heroin or heroin/fentanyl with methamphetamine is increasing.
“One (heroin) is a depressant and the other (meth) is a stimulant,” Lynn said.
There is information indicating that heroin users are using meth to prevent or lessen withdrawal symptoms, which typically include severe pain, vomiting and sweats. “They take meth in between their doses (of heroin) to keep from getting sick,” Lynn explained.
Another disturbing trend in Cecil County is an increase in heroin and heroin/fentanyl overdoses involving what appears to be newcomers of all ages, according to Lynn
“The one thing that concerns me is I’m seeing a lot of first-time users and relatively new users overdosing. They’ve been as young as 18 and as old as 50. Why is a 50-year-old person using heroin for the first time? Why is an 18-year-old getting into it? There is no history of prescription drug use — they’re jumping right into heroin,” Lynn said.
While data indicating that some older people are using heroin for the first has left Lynn perplexed, he believes it’s possible that younger people are erroneously viewing the synthetic fentanyl as a trendy “designer drug,” he said.
“It should be a no-brainer, regardless of how young or how old you are. It’s going to kill you. Heroin and fentanyl are deadly,” Lynn said.
Based on the data collected by Lynn since January 2017, the people who have suffered overdoses in Cecil County have ranged from 14 to 79 in age.