By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In an extremely rare move, a woman’s fatal drug overdose is ruled a homicide. Now, someone else could take the blame for injecting her with heroin.

Mike Hellgren has details in this unusual case.

Dangerous and deadly, heroin is the drug of choice for hundreds of abusers in Baltimore. Research obtained by WJZ shows overdoses have claimed more than 1,000 lives in the city in the past decade, but the medical examiner’s office says it is extremely rare to classify those overdose deaths as homicides. With the hidden nature of abuse, the proof simply isn’t there, making the death of a 24-year-old at a home in Northeast Baltimore significant. According to published reports, police say a friend of the victim injected her with heroin, leading to the almost unheard of designation of the death as a homicide.

“Behind every overdose death is a really complicated story,” said Gregory Warren.

Warren is president of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, an organization that has conducted exhaustive research on drug overdose deaths in Baltimore.

“Heroin has been the most significant driver of overdose deaths in our city for well over a decade,” he said.

Still, he points out a dramatic decline in those deaths, from 243 in 2000 down to 87 in 2009, the most recent year researched.

“I’ve seen people whose lives were utterly devastated,” Warren said.

Heroin addiction continues to grip Baltimore. Many times, the drug is smuggled in from Africa. Earlier this year, a city officer admitted being part of a major ring, even dealing on duty. And there are the personal stories, like the heroin addiction that ruined the life of former Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm’s stepdaughter, who was murdered a few years after an interview with WJZ.

“It’s not even about taking one day at a time. It’s about taking one second at a time,” Nicole Sesker said.

Most of Baltimore’s heroin overdoses are simply classified as undetermined.

Again, no charges have been filed in that overdose case in Northeast Baltimore ruled a homicide.