Drug Abuse Patterns and Trends in Baltimore City, Maryland, and Washington, DC: June 2013

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

Summary of Key Findings for the 2012 Reporting Period:

  • Throughout the Washington, DC, and Maryland region, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin continued to be the primary illicit drug problems in 2012. However, current trends in the indicators monitored for these drugs are mixed.
  • The two key findings in the Baltimore/Maryland/ Washington, DC, area were the upward trending of heroin indicators and the increase across the region in indicators for cannabimimetics and substituted cathinones.
  • Law enforcement reports involving cannabimimetics processed by the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) for Maryland and Washington, DC, and synthetic marijuana seizures by the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) have increased sharply.
  • Law enforcement reports involving substituted cathinones processed by NFLIS for Maryland and the District also increased sharply.

Washington, D.C.

In 2012, 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 more adult arrestees tested positive for cocaine than for any other drug, and more NFLIS reports were positive for cocaine than for any other drug in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 and 2012 data, however, more reports were positive for marijuana than for cocaine.

Adult Arrestees

The percentage of adult arrestees testing positive for cocaine continued to decrease in 2012. In comparison, the percentage testing positive for opiates and PCP (phencyclidine) remained about the same. In 2012, 14 percent of adult arrest­ees tested positive for cocaine, and approximately 7–11 percent tested positive for opiates and/or PCP.  In 2012, approximately 27 percent of reports were positive for marijuana, 16 percent for cocaine, and 7 percent for heroin as reported by NFLIS. Several new drugs were starting to appear among NFLIS reports. Possible levamisole ranked third each year from 2009 to 2012, outranking heroin each year. Cannabimimetics and substituted cathinones first began to appear in 2010, and the number of reports involving these substances increased sharply from 1 in 2010 to 33 in 2012 for cannabimimetics and from 13 to 114 for substituted cathinones.

Juvenile Arrestees

During 2012, juve­nile arrestees were more likely to test positive for marijuana (41 percent) than for any other drug. The percentage testing positive for marijuana in 2012 was lower than for any other year since 1993. The percentage of youth testing positive for cocaine decreased to less than 1.0 percent (1.0 percent in 2011, 0.2 percent in 2012). The percentage of adult offenders in Washington, DC, testing positive for amphetamines remained con­siderably lower than for other drugs (approximately 1 percent) in 2012.

Baltimore, Maryland

Treatment admissions

There were 55,499 primary enrollments to certi­fied publicly funded treatment programs in 2012. This was an increase statewide and in Baltimore City compared with enrollments in 2011. Enrollments most frequently involved alcohol, heroin, marijuana, crack/other cocaine, and other opiates. Treatment enrollments involving primary mentions of marijuana, heroin, other opiates, PCP, and benzodiazepines appeared to increase from 2011 to 2012, while those involving cocaine decreased. In Baltimore, enrollments involving heroin, other opiates, PCP, and benzodiazepines increased. Baltimore accounted for more than one-half (53 percent) of statewide heroin enrollments and approximately one-third (37 percent) of cocaine enrollments, but it constituted only 12 percent of the other opiate enrollments.

Intoxication deaths

Total intoxication deaths in Maryland increased by 15 percent from 663 deaths in 2011 to 761 in 2012. In 2012, heroin intoxication deaths increased in Maryland, and prescription opioid deaths decreased. The number of cocaine and benzodiazepine intoxications deaths, however, remained about the same in 2011 and 2012. Baltimore City accounted for 28 percent of all intoxication deaths in Maryland, and these deaths increased by 29 percent from 165 in 2011 to 213 in 2012. Heroin intoxication deaths increased by 66 percent in Baltimore; Baltimore accounted for one in three heroin intoxication deaths in the State.


Cocaine and marijuana accounted for approximately 69 percent of the positive reports from NFLIS in 2012 in Maryland and Baltimore City. Drug reports among analyzed items positive for marijuana increased from 2009 to 2012 in Maryland, while those positive for cocaine decreased. Reports among analyzed drug items identified as positive for heroin appeared to be reversing trend and increased in 2012. Approximately three-quarters of these heroin reports (74 percent) were from Baltimore City. Several new drugs were starting to appear in Maryland and Baltimore. Substituted cathinones first appeared reports among drug items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in Maryland in 2010 and in Baltimore City in 2011, and cannabimimetics first appeared among NFLIS 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.

HIDTA seizures

Seizures across the region by Washington/Baltimore 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). Seizures of cannabimimetics by HIDTA initiatives nearly quadrupled from 165 to 628 kilograms during this time. In addition, 10,775 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 kilograms of cannabimimetics seized.

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