Former Police Lieutenant Details How Past Addiction Changed Everything

By Kelly Burch 12/19/18

The former police lieutenant hopes that by sharing his story he can help other cops have courage to get treatment before addiction derails their lives. 

former police lieutenant gives speech about his past addiction

Dan Gosnell was a star with the Aberdeen, Maryland police department. At 35, Gosnell became a lieutenant in charge of the criminal investigation division, one of the youngest officers in a leadership position with the department. By that time, however, his opioid addiction had already started to take hold. 

“It started initially as taking the pills as prescribed, one to two pills every two to four hours as needed for pain. Being a large person as I am and building up a tolerance rather quickly, that progressed to three pills at a time rather than two, and then eventually four pills at a time,” Gosnell said in a video for The Baltimore Sun. “And then, rather than every two to four hours, it was every hour, or every two hours at the most. I would take three to four pills and that just progressed until eventually I was taking five, six, eight at a time, depending.”

Eventually, Gosnell was taking up to 24 pills a day, according to a story in The Baltimore Sun

At first he began using leftover pills in his own home or leftover pills from family and friends.

“Eventually it got to the point where that was no longer feasible,” he said. “I couldn’t go getting drugs off of friends and family that I knew happened to have them sitting around.”

That’s when Gosnell turned to the prescription drug drop box that the station maintained. 

“I made the unfortunate decision to actually seek the drugs out of that location and supplement my addiction that way,” he said. 

However, soon even the pills from the drop box were not enough to stave off withdrawals. 

“It escalated just like many other addicts; their addiction from opiates escalates. Pills become harder and harder to find . . . That was what brought me to the evidence room, and then I started taking actual drug evidence from the Aberdeen Police Department,” Gosnell said. 

By the time his deputy chief confronted him, Gosnell tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and opioids. However, he said after years of concealing his addiction, getting caught was a relief. 

“Of course you have that panic moment of, ‘Oh my God, my career and my life is completely over because they’ve got me; they’ve caught me,’ but that wasn’t the overpowering sensation that I felt. What was more overpowering was the sense of absolute and utter relief,” he said. 

Gosnell received a 10-year suspended sentence and had to go through drug treatment. Today his law enforcement career is over and he works in the treatment industry. However, he hopes that by sharing his story he can help other cops have courage to get treatment before addiction derails their lives. 

“The message would be to not sacrifice your integrity in order to save your career or your life,” he said. “It is not worth flushing your integrity and life down and going the road that I went. . . . I walked that road for you so you don’t have to.” 

Gosnell said that if he had gotten help sooner, he may have been able to continue his police career. 

“There is a life after law enforcement and police work,” he said. “But if you get this caught early enough and you actually ask for the help that I was afraid to, that you might not get to the point where you’re doing the things that I was doing.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.