Admissions of Carroll residents to crack cocaine treatment programs jumped 111 percent from 1989 to 1990, the highest percentage increasein the Baltimore-Washington area, a state agency that monitors substance abuse said in a report last week.
The most recent annual report of the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration said 114 Carroll residents sought help for their crack addiction during fiscal 1990.
In fiscal 1989, 54 people went into rehabilitation for the drug; in fiscal 1988, 27 people sought treatment for their crack habits.
In the other metropolitan Baltimore counties the actual numbers of people seeking treatment are greater, but they are growing at a slowerrate than in Carroll, the report said.
The number of Howard County residents seeking help for crack addiction went up 84 percent.
Harford County residents checking into treatment programs went up 33 percent. In Anne Arundel County, admissions for treatment increased by53 percent.
Baltimore County had the slowest rate of increase, at19 percent.
Carroll officials say the more than 300 percent increase since 1988 is alarming because admissions to treatment programs are believed to reflect trends in substance abuse in the community.
Maryland State Police Cpl. John Burton, supervisor of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force, said that crack is becoming a problem in the county, but that marijuana remains the drug of choice.
"We are not at an alarming rate (for crack) yet," Burton said. "Pot is still No. 1."
While the average drug user in Carroll sticks to marijuanaand powder cocaine, crack houses have begun springing up in the county, Burton said.
"We've seen over the past year an increase in adults using crack," said John Bosley, clinical director of Junction Inc. in Westminster.
The private, non-profit agency has contracts with the state and county to work on substance abuse treatment and prevention.
"Cocaine is one of the most addictive substances people use," Bosley said. "Cocaine addiction tends to be more severe than marijuana or alcohol."
He said the effects include loss of appetite andweight, lack of interest in taking care of oneself and depression ofthe immune system.
Bosley concurred that alcohol and marijuana remain the drugs of choice for both adults and adolescents in Carroll County, but said that Junction is seeing an increase in "poly-substance abuse," or use of at least two drugs.
"Most of our clients use at least two drugs regularly, and also have experience with a third," he said.
About 10 percent of the adolescents treated by Junction had used LSD or cocaine in one of its forms.
Bosley said Carroll teens who abuse drugs typically use alcohol and marijuana. Those who experiment with cocaine, crack and LSD seem to become addicted as adults.
"I think people who were using other drugs are switching to crack or cocaine because they're more readily available," Bosley said.
Burton, head of the task force since March, said he's "seeing a lotof drug activity in Union Bridge, New Windsor and Mount Airy. All kinds of drug activity, including crack."
Burton said that many of the Carroll residents who are arrested for buying powder cocaine also may be making crack cocaine from their purchases.
"Its not that difficult," he said.
Crack is a cheap, smokable cocaine, Burton said. It is dangerous because it is highly addictive and can cause instant death by heart attack.
"You can try it one time and be addicted to it, or it can kill you," he said.
Bosley said the high from crack is very short-lived -- about 30 seconds to several minutes long --but also very intense.
"That's why you get this cycle," he said of the addiction process.
Bosley said the reason people might choose smoking crack over snorting cocaine is for the more intense effect it provides through the lungs and bloodstream.
In Carroll County, he said, inhaling powder cocaine still seems more popular than smoking crack.
Burton said 10 Westminster residents have been arrested and charged with crack possession in the last several months.
Last week, task force officers arrested a juvenile who was a suspected crack dealer.
Burton said he was found with only one vial of the drugand was charged with possession.
He said it was unclear where theyouth got the drug.
Burton, who spent seven years working on the narcotics squad in the Baltimore area, said suburban counties like Carroll often are slow to try new forms of drugs.
Crack came to Maryland in the mid-1980s and did not appear in Baltimore until 1986. Burton said the drug has only showed up relatively recently in Carroll.
Burton said Carroll crack comes from Frederick and Baltimore counties.
He said task force members -- made up of state police, Westminster City Police and the Carroll County Sheriff's Department -- occasionally have seen drugs from Prince George's County.
He said a small vial of crack costs from $20 to $50.
The advent of crack has wreaked havoc in many larger cities -- such as Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles -- and is blamed for hundreds of drug-related killings and the destruction of neighborhoods.
Drug-related violence has not been a problem in Carroll, and Burton said the task force hopes to keep it that way.
"We're hoping that with enforcement and education, crack use will not get out of hand," he said.