By Jessica Kartalija

ELKTON, Md. (WJZ)– The number one drug Marylanders abuse isn’t crack, cocaine or heroin. It’s prescription pain killers. One small Maryland town is at the center of this alarming epidemic.

Jessica Kartalija talks with a former addict who almost lost her child so she could get high.

Elkton, Maryland. Population 15,000. It’s a little town with a big problem: a hotbed for prescription drug abuse.

“It’s so bad here, like, it’s very, very bad,” said Stephanie Berry, former addict.

Prescription painkillers once ruled her life. Now, 22-year-old Berry is clean and raising her young son in the Cecil County town of Elkton, right off I-95.

She realized she hit rock bottom when she lost everything.

“My son was with my mother. I lost my home, my car. I had no job. I had nothing,” Berry said.

Berry was part of an alarming trend. Over the past decade, the number of people living in Cecil County admitted to treatment centers for prescription drug abuse skyrocketed almost 800 percent. That’s nearly double the percentage statewide.

“Everything is irrelevant. Nothing else matters,” Berry said.

Reporter: “So your son didn’t matter?”
Berry: “At a point, no he didn’t. That killed me. I lived with that guilt for a long time. I still do, because I look, and I’m like, that’s my baby and I gave him up for a high.”

Berry’s story echoes throughout Maryland. Admissions to treatment centers are up in Baltimore County by more than 270 percent, Harford County is up almost 730 percent and Carroll County is up more than 600 percent. Clearly, there’s an explosion in prescription drug use.

“They are more abused than heroin, ecstasy, LSD, marijuana combined. That’s huge!” said Dr. Frank Falco, a pain management doctor in Elkton.

With easy access to I-95 and multiple prescriptions, addicts can quickly travel to pharmacies out of the area in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. without being caught. Users say Elkton is a convenient home base.

Some say the problem has gotten so bad that you can literally walk down the street in Elkton and get your hands on any prescription drug you want.

“It’ll take me 20 minutes time to have at least one to get started,” Berry explained. “It’s very easy.”

Maryland is taking aim at prescription drug abuse with a new computerized system to track who’s writing painkiller prescriptions and who’s filling them.

“I think you need a more vigilant program in every physician’s office and hospital and emergency room to help to thwart this abuse,” Falco said.

Berry says drugs ruined her life.

“I ain’t had much of a life, and what I have had, it ruined it,” she said.

Maryland’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is scheduled to start next July with a focus on helping addicts get treatment rather than reporting them to police.

Comments (28)
  1. ------ says:

    This is more of a problem then anyone would realize in elkton, kids in school are addicted to them, i have lost alot of friends over it and a few family members, for some reason everyone thinks its the cool thing to do or something.

  2. outkasts says:

    Our government made it possible for drug companies to advertise 24hrs day.Why should we ask our doctors to give us these drugs?The ads suggest that these drugs will make our lives so much better,so lets sit in a hot tub on top of a mountain and watch the sunset! Business owns us all !

  3. dancing threads says:

    The surrounding towns, like Perryville and Port Deposit are just as bad. Almost any drug is available in these high schools. thank God I don’t have kids in those schools.

  4. madelyn steele says:

    I live in Cecil County,and yes with out a doubt it seems as though so many people here in the area are on pills (oxycotin,roxys,percocet) i am 3 yrs clean off of heroin,which started with prescribed oxycotin,11 yrs ago and ended with heroin.It should not be so easy for people to get these prescriptions,we did not have these types of pain killers 20 or 30 yrs ago and we got buy just fine.I see these people everywhere that are on them and i feel very sorry for them,if they think that these pills are ok because they are prescribed they are so wrong.they will take everything from you,from your job,car,,home,respect,self respect,morals.values.goals,and so on.There is no reason these pills are so easy to get.

  5. Eastern Shore says:

    Perryville, Port Deposit, Belair, Churchville, etc., etc……..Baltimore City North.

  6. Lisa Craig Stickline says:


  7. nicole says:

    WOW, Good luck with that “helping addicts get treatment rather than reporting them to police” deal. Cecil County Commisioners office is fighting every step of the way to not allow drug treatment in Cecil County. Look into it….it’s your next story.

  8. madelyn says:

    I totaaly agree the doctors need to be held responsible,the same Dr they had the interview with is from the same office that i was given my script 11yrs ago,your so right it needs to start with the doctors,there are some exceptions,these pain doctors dont check into the patients problem enough before writing a script ,That is why you here of so many people doctor shopping.

  9. Concerned Citizen says:

    From what I have seen in Elkton and everywhere else with this problem, Drug Treatment Centers do not help. I’ve seen hundreds of people go in and out of Drug Rehabs and do NOTHING to better theirselves, some even come out worse then when they went in! As for These “Methodone Clinics” they keep wanting to build everywhere, that is ANOTHER addicting pill that is taking you away from addicting pills. How does it help you to stop taking one pill to just be addicted to another? People sell Methadone pills around here to get high.. so as far as saying it is treatment.. i think not. The county is building another clinic right by Thompson Estates (very close to an Elementary school). I will definetly sign ANY petition that is going around for this!!!

    1. Ashley says:

      They are holding a county commissiors meeting tuesday november 1st at 7pm and wednesday november 9th at 7pm about the new methadone clinic that is being bulit next to the rite aid pharmacy. We are trying to get as many people there so we can hopefully stop them from getting their state license approved!!!!

  10. M. Blystone says:

    “Over the past decade, the number of people living in Cecil County admitted to treatment centers for prescription drug abuse skyrocketed almost 800 percent. ”

    I’m interested in knowing where you acquired these statistics.

  11. Sandra says:

    The dispensing of prescription pain medication did not just happen over night with a couple pain clinics. this is a problem not just with one doctor, one clinic, one hospital or one pharmacy. Over many years and many doctors are to blame. It reaches many age groups, even to the senior citizens who are prescribed multiple pain meds. Looking for blame? Who writes a prescription? The doctors. Blame the community. We have a responsibility to report the abuse by our providers. But, who is going to be the bad guy and make them accountable?
    The citizens of this county typically turned a blind eye on many issues. It’s always not in my backyard, right? Really take a hard look. There is theft, homelessness, vagrancy all around us. I bet most is caused by the need for their next fix. Drive down Main Street, count the bail bonds offices, they out number the attorneys. We all know at least one person who has had a family member or friend who has been affected by the abuse of drugs. Truly sad.

  12. Larry says:

    This IS a very serious problem, but gauging all abuse by the number of people who check into treatment centers is like guessing the number of fish in a pond by the number you catch. Thousands of meth, crack, and heroin addicts never make it to treatment.

  13. Shirl says:

    Great story Jessica, keep going with it. We need help in Cecil County.

  14. linda in north east says:

    Dr. Falco prescribed both my daughters to Oxy’s and Percs several years ago. He should know the problem drugs are in the Cecil County area. After a year the doctor took them off the pills which led to withdrawl. In turn, it led them to Heroin where they struggled with their addiction for many years. They have both since kicked Heroin and have several years clean and abstinent from drugs. It is because of doctors like this that drugs are such a big problem in our area.

  15. Ashley says:

    Frank falco makes me so mad. I work in a pharmacy and he is one of the leading doctors that perscribes these addicting drugs like there candy!!! Yes he may be a pain mangement doctors but there are other alternatives then perscribing pain medications!! He has a lot of nerve saying what he said, if he thinks there is such a problem with pain killers then maybe he should STOP perscribing them and help fight the problem instead of being an enabler to these addicts and writing them perscriptions every 28 days….. Maybe he should think before he speaks next time!!!!!

    1. Amanda says:

      I was going to say the same thing. Dr. Frank Falco gets his patients on pain killers, increasing the doses all the time, AND not wanting to take you off of the pills. He is absolutely part to blame with ELKTON’s problem. Go to his office any day of the week, see the people lined out the door included those who are already strung out. Maybe they should investigate him!

  16. Ted Eldreth says:

    Lets all show up to let folks know we DO NOT WANT THIS in our neighborhood…If you want to help these folks with the drug habit they have brought upon themselves….FIne….We have lots of country acres for this…NOT ON RT> 40 in ELKTON

  17. Ashley says:

    Its in the county building located on chesapeake blvd!!!!! Hope to see u there we need all the help we can get!!!!

  18. Chance says:

    I used to be a patient of dr. Falco’s and most of you are correct. I had to put myself in detox because he wasnt trying to find an alternative method and I was already addicted to the pills at 26yrs old prescribed by him (Dr Falco). I used to wait for sometimes 4 hours or more to get my script, and yes it did destroy my life. I would say the dr’s are a big part of the problem. Drug dealers with a medical degree is right! And then arrest the folks who get addicted and tossed aside like garbage when the dr’s are through with them.

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