Drug & Alcohol Overdose Deaths Climb In Md.

Most were due to heroin & fentanyl.

Baltimore, Md. (KM) The sad trend continues. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says 920 people in the state died from drug and alcohol overdoses between January and June, 2016. That’s an increase of 319 from the same period last year.

“Fentanyl has been driving a lot of fatal overdoses that we’ve seen in Maryland, largely because of how potent the drug is. It’s several times more potent than heroin,” says DHMH spokesman Chris Garrett.

He says in some cases, the fentanyl is mixed with heroin, which may not be known to the purchaser. “Thinking they have purchased heroin or another drug, they can consume it  and die very quickly,” says Garrett.

DHMH says 33 people from overdoses during the first half of 2016 in Frederick County. That’s down from 18 this time last year.

Garrett says the state has been working hard trying to stem this deadly tide. “The Hogan Administration has taken this epidemic very seriously. It has devoted financial resources. It has devoted manpower to the issue as well. Health and Mental Hygiene is partnering with federal, state and local partners to try to reduce the number of overdoses that are taking place in the state,” he says.

The Maryland Good Samaritan Law, passed in 2013 and updated in 2015, protects individuals for arrest for possessing a controlled dangerous substance, and has added that  calling 911 won’t affect a person’s parole and probation status.

Last fall, DHMH co-sponsored a Scope of Pain seminar to train health care providers to help mange a patient’s pain so they don’t become addicted to opioids and eventually end up hooked on heroin.

Maryland Medicaid is instituting an initiative to make counseling a priority to facilities that provide Medicine Assisted Treatment.

In December, 2015, Deputy Secretary Dr. Howard Haft issued a standing order that allows pharmacies licensed in Maryland to dispense naloxone (nar can) without a prescription those trained to use it. “Naloxone is not a miracle drug. If someone has taken an extremely potent drug, like fentanyl, one dose of naloxone might not be sufficient to stabilize them and get them to a place of safety,” says Garrett. “They still could be in danger of overdosing again.”

Police officers, EMT’s and other citizens have been trained in how to use naloxone.

For anyone who has an addiction and wants to get clean, they can start by calling the Maryland Crisis Hotline at 1-800-422-0009.