Fentanyl Deaths Continue to Rise
Baltimore, MD (July 26, 2018)—The Maryland Department of Health today released data for unintentional drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths for the entirety of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018. Both reports can be found here.
During 2017, there were 2,282 drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Maryland. Of those deaths, 2,009 were opioid-related. Fentanyl-related deaths continue to rise, increasing from 1,119 in 2016 to 1,594 in 2017. Cocaine-related deaths are also up from 464 in 2016 to 691 in 2017. The number of heroin-related and prescription drug-related deaths dropped slightly in 2017 when compared to 2016.
Preliminary data from the first three months of 2018 indicate that there were 653 unintentional drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Maryland. There were 579 opioid-related deaths, 500 of which involved fentanyl. Heroin-related deaths fell from 291 during the same period in 2017 to 236 in 2018, while prescription drug-related deaths remained flat.
The data shows that fentanyl combined with cocaine or heroin is driving the increase in overall overdoses in 2017 and in the first quarter of 2018. There has been an increase of fentanyl mixed with cocaine, which is accounting for the increase in cocaine-related deaths. Nearly two thirds of cocaine-related deaths in 2017 also involved fentanyl.
After increasing each year exponentially since 2011, the number of fatal heroin overdoses in Maryland appears to be decreasing. Overdoses involving heroin have decreased since the third quarter of 2017. The percentage of all overdose deaths involving heroin has also decreased from 58 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016 to 36 percent of all overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2018.
Prescription drug-related deaths remained relatively flat from 2016 to 2017, dropping by five from 418 to 413. The number of prescription drug-related deaths remained the same in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same time period in 2017 with 104.
“While Maryland is starting to see a decline in heroin-related deaths, fentanyl-related deaths continue to rise in staggering numbers,” said Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall. “In the first three months of 2018 alone, we’ve seen 500 fentanyl-related deaths. We’re asking those with a substance use disorder to immediately seek treatment and for more individuals to learn how to use and carry naloxone.”
Multiple efforts to combat this epidemic are underway. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) has been established by the Department’s Behavioral Health Administration to support health care providers and their patients in the safe and effective use of prescription drugs. The PDMP collects and securely stores information on drugs that contain controlled substances and are dispensed to patients in Maryland. Providers were required to register for the PDMP by July 1, 2017 and, as of July 1, 2018, are now required to access the data before writing a prescription. Access to prescription data is made available at no-cost to physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and others that provide pharmaceutical care to their patients. Use of prescription information improves providers’ ability to manage the benefits and risks of controlled substance medications and identify potentially harmful drug interactions.
“Every day, numerous state agencies and other stakeholders are working together on the statewide response. We are seeing success on the prescriber side as hospitals and medical providers have been driving innovative solutions to reduce inappropriate prescribing,” said Clay Stamp, executive director, Opioid Operational Command Center. “Yet, we have to stay focused on and resolute in our three-pronged strategy – prevention and education, enforcement, and expanding access to treatment and recovery.”
Maryland has expanded access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid drug overdoses. On June 1, 2017, the Department’s Public Health Deputy Secretary, Dr. Howard Haft, issued a new standing order that allows pharmacies and hospitals to dispense naloxone to individuals who may be at risk of an overdose or anyone who may be able to help someone who overdoses. The new standing order replaces one from December 2014 and now allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone to anyone regardless of whether the person has previously been certified through the Overdose Response Program or received any training in opioid overdose response. This action is authorized through legislation signed by Governor Larry Hogan. Naloxone safely and effectively reverses an overdose and has a low risk for adverse effects. Fentanyl and carfentanil may require multiple doses of naloxone to be administered to help victims overdosing on those substances.
Fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic in Maryland has been a top priority of the Hogan-Rutherford administration. The Maryland Department of Health, in partnership with the Opioid Operational Command Center and other state agencies, continues to collaborate with federal, state, and local partners in the fight to reduce the number of overdoses and resulting fatalities in a multitude of ways.
Marylanders who need help finding substance-use-disorder treatment resources should visit http://goo.gl/nIfGm0 or call the Maryland Crisis Hotline, which provides 24/7 support, at 211, press 1. For information on many of the policies currently implemented to fight addiction and overdose in Maryland, see http://goo.gl/KvEzQw. If you know of someone in need of treatment for a substance use disorder, treatment facilities can be located by location and program characteristics on the Department’s page at http://goo.gl/rbGF6S.