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Baltimore City, Maryland, and Washington, DC

Revised February 2014

Drug Abuse Patterns and Trends in Baltimore City, Maryland, and Washington, DC: January 2014

Erin Artigiani, M.A., and Eric Wish, Ph.D.

Updated Drug Abuse Trends and Emerging Patterns

Throughout the Washington, DC, and Maryland region, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin continued to be the primary illicit drug problems in 2013. However, current trends in the indicators monitored for these drugs were mixed. The two key findings in the Baltimore/Maryland/Washington, DC, area were 1) the upward trending of the numbers of primary treatment enrollments involving heroin in Maryland and Baltimore and 2) the increase across the region in indicators for cannabimimetics in 2012, which appeared to be slowing or reversing in 2013 in Washington, DC, but continuing to increase in Baltimore City and Maryland.

In Washington, DC, in 2013, cocaine/crack, marijuana, and heroin continued to be the primary illicit drug prob­lems. Cocaine remained one of the most serious drugs of abuse, as evidenced by the fact that a higher percentage of adult arrestees tested urinalysis positive for cocaine than for any other drug. Additionally, higher proportions of National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) drug reports among analyzed items were identified as containing cocaine than any drug other than marijuana. However, the percentage of adult arrestees testing urinalysis positive for cocaine continued to decrease in 2013 and was lower than any time since testing began. In 2013, 14 percent of adult arrest­ees tested urinalysis positive for cocaine, while approximately 7 percent tested positive for opiates, and 10 percent were positive for PCP (phencyclidine). The percentages of positives for opiates and PCP were stable from previous reporting periods. The percentage of youth testing urinalysis positive for cocaine decreased to less than 1.0 percent and was stable (0.2 percent in 2012 and 2013). In the first half of 2013,  drug reports identified as cocaine among drug item seizures analyzed in NFLIS laboratories  appeared to increase slightly (constituting 17.2 percent of total drug reports), after decreasing steadily from 2009 to 2012 (drug reports identified as cocaine represented 15.3 percent of the total in the first half of 2012). Reports identified as marijuana/cannabis among drug items analyzed in NFLIS laboratories constituted 31.0 percent of total drug reports in the first half of 2013, compared with 33.6 percent in the first half of 2012. Cannabimimetics and substituted cathinones first began to appear in Washington, DC, drug reports among items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in 2010, and the number of these drug reports increased sharply from 1 in calendar year (CY) 2010 to 33 in CY 2012 for cannabimimetics and from 13 to 114, respectively, for substituted cathinones. However, this trend may have changed in the first half of 2013, as NFLIS drug reports identified as cannabimimetics and substituted cathinones appeared to be lower, with 4 reports for cannabimimetics and 38 reports for substituted cathinones. During 2013, juve­nile arrestees were more likely to test urinalysis positive for marijuana (40 percent) than for any other drug. While the percentage of juvenile arrestees testing positive for marijuana in 2013 was lower than for any year since 1993, officials in Washington, DC, began to test some arrestee urinalysis specimens for cannabimimetics in November 2013. They found that 52 percent of the 25 specimens (n=13) tested in November were positive for cannabimimetics (UR-144 and/or XLR-11). In December 2013, 41 percent (n=29) of 70 tested specimens tested positive for UR-144 and/or the cannabimimetic PB22. The proportion of adult arrestees in Washington, DC, testing urinalysis positive for amphetamines remained con­siderably lower than for other drugs in 2013 (at approximately 1.0 percent).

In Maryland, primary enrollments in certi­fied publicly funded treatment programs most frequently involved alcohol, heroin, marijuana/cannabis, crack/other cocaine, and prescription opioids/opiates other than heroin. Total enrollments appeared to be decreasing in January–June 2013 statewide in Maryland and in Baltimore City. However, the percentage of primary treatment enrollments involving heroin increased in these 6 months in both the State and Baltimore City. In Baltimore City, approximately one-half of primary enrollments during the first 6 months of 2013 continued to involve heroin. Baltimore City still accounted for nearly one-half of statewide heroin enrollments. In Maryland, primary heroin treatment enrollments increased by 19 percent from the first half of 2012 to the first half of 2013 (from n=6,672 enrollments to n=7,943). In Baltimore City, primary heroin treatment enrollments increased by 2 percent, from 3,708 enrollments to 3,796, during the same time period. The proportion of reports identified as heroin among drug items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in Baltimore City remained about the same in the first 6 months of 2013, compared with the first half of 2012. The reports identified as heroin constituted 22.1 percent of total drug reports in the first half of 2013, compared with 21.l percent of total reports in the first half of 2012. In Maryland, NFLIS drug reports for heroin increased slightly between the two time periods, with 13.8 percent of reports identified as heroin in the first half of 2013, compared with 12.1 percent of all drug reports among analyzed items in first half of 2012. Approximately two-thirds of the heroin drug reports for Maryland (approximately 65 percent) were from Baltimore City, a lower percentage than in previous years. Cocaine and marijuana accounted for approximately 68–69 percent of the total drug reports among drug items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in Baltimore City and Maryland in the first half of 2013; this proportion was stable from the first half of 2012. A notable exception to the relative stability in NFLIS results for marijuana/cannabis, heroin, and cocaine was drug reports containing oxycodone in Baltimore City, which increased from 1.8 percent of total drug reports in the first half of 2012 to 2.9 percent of total reports in the first half of 2013. Drug seizures across the region by Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiatives increased from 2011 to 2012 for marijuana (from 5,268 to 8,108 kilograms), heroin (from 67 to 86 kilograms), and cocaine/crack (from 261 to 305 kilograms). Substituted cathinones first appeared among drug reports from seized drug items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in Maryland in 2010 and in Baltimore City in 2011, and cannabimimetics first appeared among NFLIS drug reports in Maryland in 2010. Both have increased sharply—reports involving cannabimimetics increased from 43 in Maryland in 2010 to 897 in 2012, and reports for substituted cathinones rose from 9 in 2010 to 444 in 2012. NFLIS reports for cannabimimetics appeared to be increasing again in 2013. In the first half of 2013, there were 499 reports for cannabimimetics among total drug reports in Maryland. In Baltimore City, drug reports involving cannabimimetics were also increasing, with 21 reports identified as cannabimimetics among analyzed items in CY 2012 and 23 such reports in just the first half of 2013. Similarly, there were 97 drug reports from analyzed drug items identified as substituted cathinones in CY 2012 and 105 such reports in the first half of 2013. Seizures of cannabimimetics by HIDTA initiatives nearly quadrupled from 165 to 712 kilograms in 2011–2013 (through September). In addition, 10,775 cannabimimetic dosage units were seized in 2012. The majority of seizures in 2012 were in the Baltimore metropolitan region, which accounted for more than 70 percent of the total kilograms of cannabimimetics seized.

Data Sources: Drug seizure data on drug reports identified among analyzed drug items were provided by NFLIS, Drug Enforcement Administration, for January–June 2013. Adult and juvenile arrestee urinalysis positive data through 2013 were adapted from information obtained from the District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agency. Treatment enrollment data for the first half of 2013 for Maryland and Baltimore City were obtained from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, State of Maryland Auto­mated Record Tracking system. Washington/Baltimore HIDTA seizure data are from the HIDTA performance management system for 2011 through September 2013.

For inquiries concerning this report, please contact Erin Artigiani, M.A., Deputy Director for Policy, Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, Suite 501, 4321 Hartwick Road, College Park, MD 20740, Phone: 301–405–9794, Fax: 301–403–8342, E-mail: eartigia@umd.edu.

This page was last updated February 2014