BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Heroin in the suburbs. Once known as a city addiction, its use is skyrocketing over the county line. WJZ investigates the dramatic surge in teenage addictions.

Mary Bubala shares the story of one young girl who snorted heroin once and lost the life she knew.

If you think you know what a heroin addict looks like, look again. There is a new face of heroin, mostly young and living in the suburbs. Faces like 22-year-old Nicole Duda, of Frederick; 20-year-old Towson University student Abe Cahan; 18-year-old Elliott Mason, of Harford County; and from Carroll County, 15-year-old Liam O’Hara and 16-year-old Scott Payne–all dead after overdosing on heroin.

Lea Edgecomb tried heroin just once.

“I think I knew immediately something was wrong,” she said.

The Montgomery County high school honor student went into cardiac arrest.

“Next thing you know,” Edgecomb said. “I am unconscious.”

She was in a coma. She suffered brain damage and was paralyzed from the neck down.

“I’m trapped in my body at 17 years old,” she said.

Her case is not an isolated example. Heroin use in Maryland suburbs is exploding.

In Dorchester County, heroin use is up nearly 400 percent. In Harford County, it’s more than 100 percent. Frederick County is up nearly 140 percent. There are huge increases in Wicomico (155 percent) and Queen Anne’s (188 percent) counties. 

Experts say heroin is in the suburbs and kids have access to it.

“You don’t have to go into the city to buy heroin like we did in the 60s, 70s and 80s,” said Mike Gimbel. “It comes to them.”

Drug expert and former heroin addict Mike Gimbel says heroin is now cheap and powerful.

“Me and my friend, we were getting very experimental,” Edgecomb said.

When asked if she was scared of a drug like heroin at all, Edgecomb said: “I was up for anything.”

Her one-time heroin use left her needing around-the-clock care.

“I feel so bad that I put you through all this,” Edgecomb said to her mother.

Her mom tells WJZ she suspected her daughter was drinking, maybe even smoking pot—but never heroin.

“I had no idea that it was in the suburbs like it is,” said Lisa Essich, Lea’s mother.

“The big thing is not to make the assumption that just because we live in a certain neighborhood, make a certain amount of money that our kids aren’t going to be subjected or get addicted to drugs that we think belong only in the inner city. That’s not the way it is,” Gimbel said.

Edgecomb believes she survived  to save others. Now she’s speaking at schools across Maryland.

What she wants teenagers to know about heroin is to” be above the influence, don’t be as stupid as I was,” she said.

“If I saw a girl like me at an assembly at my school , I probably wouldn’t have touched it,” Edgecomb said.

Her life as a quadriplegic is a brutal wake-up call.

“This truly can happen to anyone because hearing her story, she was no different than us,” said Aramide Olorunyomi, Northwest High School senior.

“Everyday I live with the fact that I could have done more,” Essich said. “There is more I should have done. It’s my job to save her, protect her. I wasn’t there to protect her.”

Edgecomb hopes to visit more schools throughout Maryland, showing students how trying drugs even one time can cause consequences they never dreamed of.

Comments (60)
  1. Jim says:

    Why does your dateline show Baltimore? And not Frederick? Or Ellicott City? Or Towson? Or Sykesville? What the heck is this story about?

  2. A Sad Mom says:

    Thank you very much for covering this important issue. And it is wonderful of Lea to share her story with teenagers.

    Yes, heroin addiction is a growing epidemic. The typical heroin addict, nationwide, is now a white, middle-class teenager, yet many people imagine a very different picture. In the Baltimore suburbs, it is destroying many lives.

    I know, because my daughter is a heroin addict, and it derailed her life in many, many ways.

    I hope you will follow up with more stories about heroin addiction among teenagers, and the difficulties that arise when a mental health issue — a disease — is also a criminal issue, tying up our courts, police, jails, etc.. Treatment would be far more expedient, but it’s hard to come by. Facilities have waiting lists, and without insurance, it’s impossible.

    Thanks again for bringing attention to this.

    1. s keller says:

      I have to say yes Heroin is everywhere.My sister passed away at the age of 30 from a Heroin overdose, she will be gone 6 yrs this May 27.And now i am dealing with my 16 yrs old daughter and Herion.The sad thing about it is i try my best to help my sister but you can’t help the ones who refuse help.It is a shame my sister had to pass away on my mom birthday and now my daughter who i adopted at age 15 months which was my sisters is going threw the same thing and she is only 16.It is so sad and i feel so helpless.

  3. Charles says:

    The two young men from Carroll Co died in 1996 and 1998 – a period when the county had a very real problem. Sad as those incidents were, it’s not exactly evidence of anything “new” or a “surge” 15 years later.

    Might I suggest that if this is a real story, assign it to a real journalist?

    1. A Sad Mom says:

      I personally know of three young people who died from heroin. Support groups are packed with parents whose kids are addicted. It’s a real problem.

    2. Jim says:

      Charles you have to be kidding yourself and everybody around you. You have know clue whats going on with kids and herion today do you? Wake up man, Look around yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. SMH says:

        I think what Charles was saying is that this problem is not new. It has been in the suburbs for a long time. Honestly, I just think it is a subject that is not covered enough so it has the illusion of being a recent problem.

  4. DC says:

    After watching your story on the 11pm news I am left with 2 questions:
    1. How do you call someone who volentarily snorts heroin a victim? Heroin didn’t chase her down & jump into her nostrils. She WILLINGLY injested the heroin. No one made her do ANYTHING. In her own words she was “…down for whatever.”
    2. Why is it that this becomes an important enough story to be broadcast only when a caucasian teen from the suburbs is the “victim”? Kids experimenting with drugs is NOT “brand new” & it’s NEVER been exclusive to any one community. Teens have been taking heroin for years for countless reasons including peer pressure. Many of them have died during their 1st experience with various drugs, either directly during use or from a lack of clear judgement afterwards (i.e.: getting involved in an automobile accident while under the influence). Heroin is just 1 drug that adults & teens alike are taking, but NOW you wanna talk about it? How about the countless crystal meth labs in the suburbs & rural farms growing marijuana right alongside the corn? And let’s not forget alcohol.
    Is it a good thing that you are @ least finally coming around to recognizing there’s a problem in YOUR neighborhood that needs immediate attention, but damn you for acting as if this issue just dropped out of the sky last night.

    1. Montgomery County Parent says:

      Are you kidding me? Your reaction to this is a little over the top. The point of this story is to let people know that heroin is a very prevelant drug in teenagers lives. Maybe YOU knew already but many parents do not. I didn’t! I am thankful that the word is getting out about this and other hardcore drugs. Calm down and be thankful that at least the word is getting out before more kids die! This girl is a victim because she didn’t know the dangers of heroin and it’s obvious the family didn’t know it was out there like that. Teenagers are typically “up for anything” Do you have teenagers? Are you even a parent at all? Wow. People never cease to amaze me.

      1. Michael says:

        Montgomery County Parent: You didn’t know heroin was out there? What rock have you been living under? DC did recognize that it’s a good thing that message is getting out there, as well as the list of drugs that were also mentioned in case you didn’t realize that they were out there too. If you as a parent don’t know or have an idea about which dangers kids are faced with today; whether it be voluntarily or involuntarily, and then you as a parent don’t become proactive, then you sir or ma’am are the problem.

        DC, I support everything you’ve said in this statement minus the caucasian teen part, but I can see your message.

    2. pigeon says:

      Oh give it a break with the racial thing! How many teens of other “backgrounds” have come forward to share their stories and/or experiences?! Maybe if they would you wouldn’t have to make such a stupid and unfounded remark.

      1. Montgomery County Parent says:

        Michael. Let me clarify a few things for you. I KNEW heroin was “out there” what I didn’t know was how available it is for our kids. I didn’t realize how popular it is among teenagers. As a parent I am proactive with my kids about the dangers of drug use and alchol use. I wasn’t provided a manual with the list of drugs I need to talk to my kids about. I agree the foundation starts at home but we cannot be with our kids at all hours. We teach them and show them and talk to them and pray when they go out the door they will make the right choices. Just because a child makes a bad choice doesn’t mean they come from a family that doesn’t care or hasn’t taught them. I commend this girl for coming forward and sharing her story. How brave she must be to put herself out there and say Yes, I made a mistake and I hope someone learns from what I have done. You’re missing the whole point of this story. HEROIN is becoming more popular among teenagers. That is what I didn’t know.

  5. outkasts says:

    Maryland counties hold 80% of the drugs found in baltimore city.Harford county reported a drug bust that involved adults with full time jobs.Baltimore county police found a warehouse growing drugs.The media outlets are located in Baltimore,so alot of crimes in the counties,never make the news.Americans love drugs and should never promote drugs as a BLACK problem,but an AMERICAN problem.

    1. harfcoedge says:

      From being a former cab driver in harford county, I know how prevalent different drugs are up here. But if they want to start somewhere, it’s not the poor neighborhoods. It’s the middle to upper class. I’m not being discriminatory. I know of so many middle to upper class people who sell high dosage narcotic pain killers along with cocaine and various other drugs. Cab drivers see so much but don’t say anything so that we don’t lose our lives. I’ve been held up twice by drug dealers. I never had a problem when I was growing up in baltimore city. I only can hope that the harford county sheriff’s and state troopers would finally realize the problem and find a way to alleviate it.

  6. L.D. says:

    If you all want to keep your kids safe then you need to start with the basics. Drugs and Alcohol are the same thing. Alcohol is drugs, in fact its considered a hard drug by every measure. If there was every a “gateway” drug its alcohol.

  7. Lea says:

    Kids today are being desensitized to Heroin by Big Pharmas synthetic version (Oxycontin). Its use is rampant now and the DEA does nothing to stop it. Kids talk among themselves and are aware that Oxycontin is synthetic heroin. And because its so popular now, it makes kids think that if synthetic heroin is ok then the other kind must be ok too.

    Back in my days most of the kids in my neighborhood stuck with the soft minor stuff like Cannabis. heroin was something that “nasty people from the city” did. It was scary drug then it a scary drug now.

    The DEA spends about 80% of its budget chasing happy hippy potheads around. You know the type, there normally peaceful, non violent and just sorting of blending in with society. But at the same time Oxycontin (made by the friends of the DEA) can be purchased by the thousands in places like South Florida. Both young and old know they can jump on a bus to FL and tour all of the “pain management centers”, making there rounds and sometimes picking up as many as a dozen prescriptions a day. They buy them in FL for $3.00 and bring them up and sell them for $$20.00-80.00/ea.

    Im aware of a little punk azz kid in G.Burnie thats been arrested for selling it 3 times now and they keep releasing him. He owns a house outright and drives a Mercedes. For some reason even after being arrested multiple times they still allow him to keep his car and house. Hes about 22 years old and from what ive been told can sit in the parking lot of a local shopping center and sell a thousand pills in a day. At the same time they just passed a law in OK allowing someone to be sentenced to life in prison for selling concentrated Cannabis (aka hash). I guess as long as your selling drugs that are produced by a preferred DEA vendor then its ok.

    1. pigeon says:

      The DEA does their job in line with what the law allows.
      The DEA does NOT release “dealers”; your court systems do. Come down on the liberal judges who, actually, thumb their nose at the DEA and the general public by their “wrist slapping” attitudes.
      Don’t believe everything you hear and only 50% of what you see (or think you see).

      1. Lea says:

        There “wrist slapping attitudes” are very selective. They let people go free that are selling drugs that can kill people with a single wrong dose as long as its mfg by a government approved vendor. But at the same time they hand down life sentences to people peddling harmless herbs.

        Feel free to correct me if im mistaken but here in MD the penalty for mere possession of a pack of cigarette papers while in possession of Cannabis can add 4 years to the prison sentence. And why? why should it be like this? Cannabis makes people happy, not stupid and violent like alcohol or other garbage like Heroin. Its nutrient and protein rich. You cant overdose from it. It relieves stress without hangover or deadly side effects. Cannabis is a gift from other nature and should be treated as the valuable resource that it is. Instead, its been handed to a bunch of criminals in Mexico to protect Big Pharmas drug business here in the states.

  8. BmoreTruth says:

    there are more drugs in the suburbs than anywhere else….suburban kids have nothing to do besides drugs…and when they go to Bourbon street on Thursday nights, all they do is look for drugs. Harford county is ridiculous with drugs. All my friends from there want nothing but do drugs. The suburbia is infested mainly because they know cops will never harass them as much as the city kids!!!

  9. tylerjake says:

    What does everyone expect? These kids are being raised by the worthless and selfish “Baby Boomer” generation. Most of these old worthless hippies lived by the motto “If it feels good, do it!” Also, remember they’re not responsible for their actions, since they’re victims. They’ve passed that philosophy on to their children. Now we all pay for their inability to raise and mind their own children.

    1. Baby Boomer says:

      Tylerjake, that is a stereotype and a huge generalization. This was the last generation to endure the draft, so don’t tell me they were worthless or irresponsible. It didn’t “feel good” to fight in a war many didn’t even believe in.

      As for victimhood, you’re the one saying we’re all the victims of the boomers being “worthless hippies.”

      Addiction doesn’t discriminate. No parent can watch their teenagers 24/7.

      (And for the record, a lot of boomers are likely to be the grandparents, not the parents, of teenagers today.)

    2. Carroll County Mom says:

      I am a “Baby Boomer” with a child that is a heroin addict. I am neither selfish or worthless. You are ignorant to make such a comment and pigeon-hole an entire generation. My husband and I have three children, two of whom are extremely successful adults. The third…a heroin addict with a full time job. I believe you would benefit greatly from educating yourself about how people end up becoming heroin addicts. If you haven’t been touched by this epidemic, consider yourself lucky. If I did not have a heroin-addicted child, I would have thought that I was the best parent in the world. That is how perfect my other two children have turned out. Ironically, the heroin addict in one of the successful children’s twin. Can you explain that? I think not. It’s so easy to judge other people when you are not in their shoes, isn’t it?

      1. pigeon says:

        You tell them.
        9 chances out of 10 that individual has no true and in depth knowledge of the drug and how it can/does affect people (not only the user but also their families). It all comes back to “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
        Just as you can set an example, live & grow up in a God fearing household, but when the devil takes a bite you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. All you can do is love them and pray for them.
        You are a good mom, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

      2. Happy_Hippy_Type says:

        Personally I find it amusing to hear ingrates such as tyler badmouthing the hippy scene while chugging down a frosty mug of one of the vilest drugs on the planet. Alcohol is normally where it all starts people. Its on TV, its in magazines, its on the roadside, its made to look glamorous or cool depending on the target.

        Do you remember what happened the last time 1/2 million hippies all got together? I’ll remind you…..a week of peace, love and helping each other out.

        What do you think would happen if you put 1/2 million drunks in the same room? There would be blood spattered all over the walls before Jimi finished his first set. Bunch if ignorant brainwasher souls. I wish I could say that I pity you but I dont, excuse me.

    3. Lea says:

      Cheers Tyler! Now go drink another dose of your government preffered drugs.

  10. DRUGS says:

    I’m honestly not surprised

  11. cms827 says:

    I am glad this is getting some attention finally, I have watched neighbors kids get hooked on oxy’s and now are heroin addicts. It is a horrible horrible thing to watch these young men and woman destroy themselves first and then their familys. Oxy’s are too easily prescribed in this country. Drug addicts do not look like they used to, I know a young man that is a major heroin addict and you could put 1000 people in a room and he would be the last one you would pick to be a heroin addict. Most of these young people come from wonderful families, parents always there to support them when growing up, baseball, cheerleading the whole 9 yards. I talked to one young man and he said he started using because of peer pressure in school. The problem is rehab does not work. They are not in rehab long enough, insurance pays for a few weeks and thats it, then they use again and they go back in rehab severall times – what sense does that make keep them there for at least 8 months instead of sending them back every few months for a 2 week stint.

    1. williejoe says:

      Insurance will not continue to cover beyond one or two thirty day stays. It also becomes part of your permanent health history record.

      1. LM says:

        You sound like an expert willie.


    This story could have been so much more, but a poor example of journalism. But I guess it’s something. I’m a mother of a 24 year old son who died of a heroin overdose in December. He was the 3rd OD death within 30 days in Perry Hall. I think we did what most responsible parents do, have the talks, monitor friends & places, stress education importance, etc. but still could not save our son from this disease. That’s right, it’s a disease – starts out voluntary and swiftly becomes a devastating addiction. I can only hope and pray that this new attention to an old problem will prevent other families from experiencing the worst type of pain that you could not even begin to explain.

    1. Another Mother says:

      My heart goes out to you. I too was a responsible parent, and have a 23-year-old daughter addicted to heroin. I hope you have lots of support around you, and I am so sorry for your loss.

  13. williejoe says:

    Blacks are the mules for the White users. Clean up the distribution & you will take care of a large part of the problem. Heroin has become affordable & plentiful so Kids, being the naive little runts that they are will try just about anything & reason goes out the window. Parents need to be so far up their kids a$$es at ages 12 thru 18 it would make a detective look mellow but you also have to reward them for good behavior & show them love. Children want to be disciplined because discipline shows them that you care. Parents, I raised four, I know & you don’t get off by throwing a $20 bill at them with the car keys.

    1. pigeon says:

      There you go again. Your 1st two sentences shows your ignorance! Just so very unnecessary. The rest of your comment is right on target!

    2. LM says:

      your a scary individual willie. So in additiion to many of your other prior revelations you also believe that your kids appreciated being assualted by a 200lb man with a 1/4″ thick leather belt? I know I would enjoyed that too! Thank you for another fine example of your brilliance.

      1. williejoe says:

        LM, I never advocated violence. I knew about as best I could what & where my children were at all the time in & out of school. I have four, all successful professionals & college grads. I was lucky to some degree but never forget what My Mom taught me & I offer up this simple advice. “Show me your friends & I’ll tell you what you are”. Better know if they’re underachievers or good students & make adjustments accordingly. I disciplined them physically yes & I don’t think it was necessary now.

  14. Sick of stupid says:

    WOW…I stopped reading these responses after the third or forth. Why are we are a society so critical. The young lady knows that she made a mistake, she must live with the mistake the rest of her life. Her mistake had terrible consequenses for her and by the grace of god it has not happened to any of your children. BUT…it could have. Kids experiment and try things that they know they should not touch. It is what it is. As parents all we can do it teach them what is write and what is wrong and hope that the information that we provie to them is enough for them to make a good decision. No one can say that it wont be their child and that it could be their child because it can.

  15. williejoe says:

    Sick of Stupid, Maybe you should have read down to my post before lamenting & posting yours. I would also suggest that you take English comp 101 & writing.

    1. Sick of stupid says:

      @williejoe How very rude. I was not aware that a comment on this topic required me to spell check and make sure that my grammar was 100% correct. Rather I expected that my comments would be taken for what they are, my opinions. And also before you comment about someone else’s grammar, look at your own!

    2. LM says:

      “I would also suggest that you take English comp 101 & writing”

      This coming from a literary giant such as yourself! funny stuff willie!

  16. troy says:

    See see for all the negative minded people out there.drugs are all over md not just in the city.even the county or suburbs folks do negative things like drugs the media just dont show or tell about it.

    1. LM says:

      There all over the world troy. Just look for any building or structure that says”liqour store” or “pharmacy” or “pain managment clinic”. All of the comedians are out tonight..

  17. williejoe says:

    Troy, They don’t cover it anymore even in the city until there is a sensational story resulting in a murder or big bust. Same applies to the Burbs although the media & police do treat whites differently for the same crime.

  18. PAUL E. MICELLI says:


    1. LEA says:

      Your forgot the worst of them all Paul. Or could it be that you too are a user and just conveniently ommited it? Go ahead and tell them about alcohol Paul.

      Tell them how its responsible for 40-60% of all of the violence in the world (see CDC, WHO, UN or any police stats to confirm), And then explain to them how many millions of our tax payer dollars are spent every single day to maintain all of those drunks, and while your at it why dont you throw in the number of drunk driving stats just for fun….I think the average is close to a hundred people EVERY DAY for the past 50 years.

      And just a side note. Im not sure why you included “pot” in your list of drugs since Cannabis is a soft drug with huge medical and nutritional benefits while all the others on your list (and the one that you conveniently forgot) are all Hard drugs responsible for many social problems.

      5000 years later and not one human being has ever opverdosed from Cannabis. But at the same time thousands continue to die each and every year from alcohol poisoning.

    2. Can't Fix Stupid says:

      WHY THE HECK ARE YOU YELLING?! Very annoying!

  19. A Passerby says:


    Only the naive/sheltered (a.k.a county natives) are shocked by this news. Meanwhile, the people who are exposed to this on a daily basis have been trying to get this problem to the forefront for years now, but to no avail.

    And you want to know why? Because those people in question are expected to be involved with drugs; the low-income city dwelling citizens. Why care for them when its the middle-class and rich families that are the real families whose childrens’ futures we should be concerned about?

    Alas, I do give my condolences to all the victims and their families. Addiction, no matter what drug it is, is a pain that no parent should have to endure.

    1. Lea says:

      The apparent lack of concern about heroin has nothing to do with black or white. Its has to do with economics and political favors. Heroin has never been a threat to cotton, or the paper industry or big pharmas sometimes deadly mixtures. But Marijuana is and always has been and thats why the DEA spends most of there efforts hunting down pot smokers while ignoring heroin and other garbage (both the “natural” form and big pharmas synthetic version of heroin…oxycontin).

      We spend 139 million dollars per day on marijuana prohibition, which means that the only people able to capitalize on our nations number on cash crop is the criminal cartels. At the same time we ban our own people from growing it even for industrial uses (like fuel, paper, fabric, food) while importing it) hemp aka marijuana) from China to make things like fuel, paper, fabric, food, cosmetics, and 20,000 other products. Isnt this the new American way?

  20. Sabrina Radcliff says:

    This is sooo sad. I realy feel sorry for her and her family. And her mom should know its not her fault you can only protect your kid so much you can not be there 24/7. I hope that with gods will some day shell be able to walk again. dr.s say things and people prove them wrong. I hope she makes a difference speaking in these schools.

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