Maryland sees uptick in fentanyl-related fatal overdoses at close of 2015
Data point to increased needs for users to pursue treatment, to access naloxone
Baltimore, MD (January 15, 2016) – The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Vital Statistics Administration, which tracks overdose deaths across the state, has recorded initial data that show a surge in Maryland deaths related to fentanyl overdoses. The data are from the fourth quarter of 2015 and are being processed.
Many of the overdoses entailed people using fentanyl alone, not the mix of heroin and fentanyl that caused fatal-overdose increases in recent years in Maryland and other states.
“The latest data show that an already tragic trend in Maryland has taken an even worse turn,” said Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Van T. Mitchell. “Now more than ever, we need Marylanders who are using or are addicted to opioids including heroin to be aware of the high risk of death. It is critical for users, friends and family members to be trained in the use of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and to obtain the drug from their pharmacy to administer in the event of an overdose. Users also need to be linked with treatment services.”
Marylanders who need help finding substance abuse treatment resources should visit http://goo.gl/U5hFYh or call the Maryland Crisis Hotline, which provides 24/7 support, at 1-800-422-0009.
Since the start of his term, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has made the heroin-and-opioid epidemic a priority of his administration, creating through executive order two task forces to find and institute tools to reduce the grip of addiction on the state. The Maryland’s Heroin & Opioid Emergency Task Force, led by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, issued its final report last month. Also in December, Governor Hogan announced grant funding in Western Maryland to strengthen drug treatment and to target drug traffickers.
Last October, the Maryland Good Samaritan Law went into effect. It provides protection from arrest, as well as prosecution, for certain specific crimes and expands the charges from which people assisting in an emergency overdose situation – such as administering naloxone – are immune. Last month, Health and Mental Hygiene issued a standing order for pharmacies to provide naloxone upon request without a prescription. The department has funded training for naloxone administrations to municipalities’ law enforcement officers and other citizens under its Overdose Response Program. Nearly 15,000 individuals have been trained as of January 7, 2016.
In recent years, the slide to heroin use often has had roots in dependence upon prescription opioids. A Prescription Drug Overdose Webinar will be held 3 to 4 p.m., January 21. “The Truth about Opioids: Treating Pain in the United States” will be presented by Health and Mental Hygiene’s Center for Injury & Sexual Assault Prevention, on behalf of the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic Regional Network. Register at https://goo.gl/vPgPOL. In October 2015, Health and Mental Hygiene co-sponsored a half-day prescriber-training seminar called SCOPE of Pain, to help reverse that addiction trend. Maryland physicians can monitor prescription activity through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
The data for previous years’ fatal overdoses can be found at http://goo.gl/jpsMTS. Once finalized, fourth-quarter 2015 data, as well as the annual report for the entire 2015 data, will be published in June.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the state government agency that protects Maryland’s public health. We work together to promote and improve the health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to care, quality management, and community engagement. Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH and www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH.