Overdose Deaths Increase In Md. Due To Fentanyl, Opiods, Health Officials Say

They say efforts must be made to decrease demand.


Baltimore, Md (KM). A recent report by the Maryland Department of Health recorded an increase in overdose deaths in the state during the first six months of 2018. The study says 1325 people died of alcohol and drug overdoses compared to 1179 between January and June of 2017. In Frederick County, it was 48 total drug and alcohol overdose deaths between January and June of 2018, compared to 41 the same period  the year before.

The report finds that 1185 people died from opioid-related intoxication deaths in the first six months of 2018, which is up from 1032 during the same period in 2017. For Frederick County, the report shows that 44 people died of opioid overdoses between January and June, 2018, which is an increase from 34 the same period the year before.

Clay Stamp, the Executive Director of Maryland’ Opioid Operational Command Center, says a lot of these deaths were due to fentanyl. :”We are seeing a shift toward a majority of the fatalities being from, what we believe, are the illicit drug market, and primarily from illicit fentanyl, almost 80% of the deaths,” he says.

The report says there were 1038 deaths from fentanyl from January to June, 2018, compared to 800 the same period in 2017.  In Frederick County, it was 42 deaths between January and June, 2018, compared to 25 the same period in 2017.

Fran Phillips, the Deputy Secretary of Public Health for the Maryland Department of Health, says fentanyl is a prescription drug given to patients with chronic pain. But this type of fentanyl is much more potent. :”We;’re talking about synthetic fentanyl that is not a derivative from opioids, the opioid plant. It’s made in  a laboratory and it’s made in a criminal laboratory. This is street-illicit fentanyl,” she says.

The Health Department report says while deaths from heroin overdoses declines, deaths from cocaine overdose rose during the first six months of this year. Phillips says a lot of this heroin is mixed with opioids. :”Not the cocaine itself. It’s not necessarily that more people are using cocaine. But the cocaine that they’re using is much more potent, much more likely to be fatal than had been the case in the past,” she says.

Both say law enforcement and health officials need to work together on both the supply and demand side of this crisis. . “We really have to look to  our law enforcement community to help stem the tide, while we continue to address this,  especially in the prevention area,” says Stamp. “Because at the end of the day long term, is going to be trying to remove and reduce the demand through prevention like we’ve seen with smoking years ago. That’s the long haul.”

“It’s really going to take an all hands kind of effort to be successful,” says Phillips. “And that’s we not just as the state level, but locally too. Every county has a group that come together. And, yes, it’s great to see a sheriff say we need more detox, and it’s great to hear health officers say we need more interdiction. So it’s really wrapped around law enforcement and public health.”

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has said there is a need locally for a detox center, and he’s offering the Work Release Center at the local jail as a site.


By Kevin McManus