BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In Maryland, it’s a killer more deadly than guns. Heroin deaths have reached epidemic levels in the state. Now the Drug Enforcement Agency has started a task force to go after heroin dealers.

Meghan McCorkell has details on the fight to save lives.

While Baltimore City is still known as the heroin capital of the U.S., officials warn the problem is spreading across the state.

From the Eastern Shore, where a dangerous heroin trafficking ring was busted last week, to a Baltimore City crackdown that netted dozens of dealers in June.

“You cannot let them continue to poison the youths’ lives,” one man said.

And in Annapolis, where an intense undercover investigation cracked open a major heroin operation this spring.

“That drug is killing people left and right,” an officer said.

Across Maryland, heroin has become a lethal issue.

“It’s estimated that roughly ten percent of Baltimore’s population is addicted to heroin,” said Assistant Special Agent Gary Tuggle, Baltimore D.E.A.

In 2013, 464 people died of a heroin overdose in Maryland. That’s an 88 percent increase from 2011.

The numbers are so staggering, jurisdictions have started training paramedics to use narcan–a drug to revive overdose patients.

Now the D.E.A. has formed a task force targeting heroin dealers.

“We want to send a clear message that if you’re dealing drugs, if you’re dealing heroin, if you’re dealing prescription drugs, we’re going to come after you,” said Tuggle.

Officials say a lot of the people that wind up buying heroin on the streets started out abusing prescription drugs.

Assistant Special Agent Tuggle says heroin is cheaper and more potent than prescription drugs. That high purity level leads to overdoses.

“The face of heroin could be you, it could be me at the end of the day. Heroin doesn’t discriminate,” Tuggle said.

That’s why federal officials are cracking down to try and prevent more deaths.

Once recent D.E.A. bust found 25 pounds of heroin. That’s worth upwards of $100 million.

Both Hollywood actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Glee star Cory Monteith died from heroin overdoses.

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