DHMH says most were for heroin and other opioids taken with fentenyl.
There are grim statistics from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The agency says 383 people have died from overdoses in the state between January and March, 2016. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same trend of fatal overdoses that we’ve been seeing in recent years,” says Chris Garrett, a spokesman for DHMH. “Heroin continues to be a major cause of overdoses as well as fentenyl.
“Fentenyl is, of course, is more potent that heroin, and unfortunately, we’re still seeing that people are consuming fentenyl, sometimes thinking they’re consuming another illegal drug. Unfortunately, because the potency of fentenyl is so strong, people are overdosing,” he says.
The DHMH report also says drug and alcohol intoxication deaths in Maryland increased in 2015 for the fifth year in a row, reaching a high of 1259, which is a 21% increase over the previous year, 2014. 86% if all intoxicated deaths that occurred last year are due to heroin, prescription opioids and non-pharmaceutical fentenyl, according the report.
The number of opioid-related deaths increased by 23% between 2014 and 2015, and have more than doubled since 2010, says DHMH. The number of heroin-related deaths tripled between 2010-2015, the DHMH report says. 29% of heroin-related deaths in 2015 occurred in combination with fentenyl, 24% in combination with alcohol, 20% in combination with cocaine and 13% in combination with prescription opioids.
But DHMH says action has been taken to try to stem the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic. Garrett says naloxone is available without a prescription to citizens who have been trained in its use. “There’s a standing order that was signed by the Deputy Health Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene that enables Maryland-licensed pharmacists to dispense naloxone that’s known to reverse overdoses,” he says. 55 organizations in Maryland conduct training for citizens and issue them certificates to purchase naloxone. Police officers and EMT’s around the state have been trained in the use of naloxone.
Maryland also has a Good Samaritan Law on the books. “The Good Samaritan Law helps protect people from prosecution if they’re acting in a relation to helping someone who is experiencing an overdose,” says Garrett.
A lot of opioid addictions start with prescribed medications which help patients control pain. DHMH has sponsored a Scope-of-Pain seminar. It’s geared toward health care providers to help patients manage their chronic pain without relying on opioids.
Garrett says anyone who has an addiction problem and wants help can call the Maryland Crisis Hotline, which is open 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. The number is 1-800-422-0009.