Overdose Deaths In Md. Increased In 2018

Officials say a lot of it is due to fentanyl.


Baltimore, Md (KM). The number of fatal overdose deaths in Maryland increased between January and September, 2018. That’s according to statistics released by the Maryland Department of Health, which says the number deaths due to unintentional intoxication was  1,848, a 8% increase over the same period last year. The agency says out that amount, 1,648 were opioid-related deaths, a 10% increase from the previous year.

Officials say a lot of those deaths can be attributed to fentanyl. “Very inexpensive, and it’s become ubiquitous. It is a factor in probably close to 90% of the fatalities today in Maryland,” says Steve Schuh, the Executive Director of the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center.

The Health Department reports that fentanyl related deaths increased from 1173 in 2017 to 1449 the following  year. “We are now flooded with this fentanyl drug which is so much more powerful than heroin and is now in virtually every street drug that is available in Maryland is adulterated, is laced with this very deadly fentanyl,” says Fran Phillips, Deputy Secretary of the State Department of Health.

“Fentanyl is a type of opioid. It is a synthetic drug. It’s not grown. In other words, it’s made in a laboratory. These are not prescription drugs,” she says.

The statistics also show cocaine-related deaths increased.

Schuh says overdose deaths are not just confined to urban areas, but can also be found in suburban and rural areas. “Opioids do not discriminate on the basis of geography, socio-economic, race or age,” he says.

But there are differences between  men and women regarding overdose deaths. “Men comprised about three-quarter of fatalities; women only about one-quarter,” says Schuh.

The data from the Health Department show that Frederick County’ had 56 fentayl-related deaths between January and September of 2018, which is a increase of 23. Heroin intoxication deaths in Frederick County dropped by seven from 27 in 2017. When it comes to local opioid-related intoxication deaths, Frederick County had  59 deaths in 2018, an increase from 46 the year before. Alcohol intoxicated deaths increased by 11 to 66 in 2018, which is contrary to the statewide trend which shows a decrease in alcohol-related deaths.

The report from the Health Department says  prescription opioid-related deaths decreased last year. Schuh gives the medical profession a lot of credit for this decline. “The number of prescriptions being written by physicians and hospitals today is substantially less than what they were some years ago,” he says. “The medical community has a great job reacting to this crisis, and being more cautious in the way in which they write prescriptions.”

In the past, many addicts got addicted to opioids after being prescribed the medication by physicians.

The Health Department says fighting the opioid epidemic has been a top priority of the Hogan-Rutherford Administration. The agency works with the Opioid Operational Command Center and other state agencies, along with federal and local partners,  to help reduce the number of overdoses and fatalities in Maryland.

In a news conference on Thursday, Governor Larry Hogan announced that $248-million  has been set aside in the general fund budget for prevention and treatment of drug addiction, It’s a 20% increased compared to the current spending plan.


By Kevin McManus