BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Heroin is killing more Marylanders than ever before. As it continues to take a deadly toll on people across the state, Governor Larry Hogan is about to declare a state of emergency.
Jessica Kartalija has the human story behind this heroin epidemic.
A heroin epidemic is killing people across Maryland, destroying families who never thought it could happen to them—people like 19-year-old Hannah McLaughlin.
A minister’s daughter, she grew up in Harford County, singing, performing and helping out at the church. She was the last person you would expect to try heroin.
“She was creative. She was fun, very active, quickly got involved in sports,” said her mother, Lisa McLaughlin.
But when their youngest daughter hit middle school, Craig and Lisa noticed dramatic changes. When they got her drug tested, the results rocked their world.
“She had fatal levels of opiates in her body. Someone had given her a pill and she became an instant addict,” said her father, Craig McLaughlin.
Hannah is the new face of heroin addiction.
The Journal of American Medicine described today’s addict as a young person from the suburbs who starts out with painkillers but quickly discovers heroin is cheaper and easier to get.
“A lot of people that got addicted to the pharmaceuticals kind of said, `Well, heroin’s a quarter of the price, it’s twice the potency, why don’t I just go do that?” said Sam Bierman, Executive Director of the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center in Towson.
A recovering addict, Bierman knows firsthand heroin’s powerful grip. He’s been counseling people for years—many you’d never believe would get hooked.
“Addiction doesn’t care who you are or where you’re from or your race or your religion or your creed. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it,” Bierman said.
Heroin killed more than 450 Marylanders last year alone—that’s a nearly 50% spike since 2010.
“It’s tearing families and communities apart,” Hogan said.
In an exclusive interview with WJZ, he told Vic Carter there is a heroin epidemic here.
“We’re going to declare a state of emergency. I’m going to pull together a summit to bring people from every aspect of this issue together and we’re going to tackle it as best we can. It’s a huge, huge problem that’s not getting enough attention,” Hogan said.
But for Hannah, who entered 19 rehabs over four long years, it will be too late.
“She was in her kneeling position that she used when she was shooting up in the corner of her room that she tended to use and I called her name, shook her and she didn’t respond. No parent should ever have to do that,” Lisa said.
Now, through their heartbreak, Craig and Lisa are telling Hannah’s story to anyone who will listen.
“If you are addicted, you can get out. You can get out. There is hope, you can beat it, but anything less than 1000% effort, you’ll die,” Craig said.
Since Hannah’s death, her parents have formed a support group for the families of addicts. For more information, on Mt. Zion, click here. For more information on Hannah’s Hope, click here. For more information on Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, click here.