Fen­tanyl most preva­lent drug in over­dose deaths

Kent County News - - OPINION - By DENAE SPIERING

BAL­TI­MORE — Fen­tanyl-re­lated over­dose deaths are on the rise in Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to a state Depart­ment of Health re­port re­leased last week. The data ac­counts for un­in­ten­tional fa­tal over­doses through the third quar­ter of 2017 for fen­tanyl-, heroin-, opi­oid-, co­caine- and al­co­hol- re­lated deaths.

The re­port re­leased Jan. 26 states that while fen­tanyl con­tin­ues to be the most preva­lent drug found in opi­oid-re­lated over­dose deaths, heroin-re­lated deaths have shown a slight de­cline.

Dur­ing this nine-month pe­riod, which en­com­passes Jan­uary through Septem­ber 2017, there were 1,705 drug- and al­co­hol­re­lated deaths across the state, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The ma­jor­ity of those deaths (1,501) were opi­oid-re­lated deaths, in­clud­ing 1,173 fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths.

On the Mid-Shore, there were 40 dru­gand al­co­hol-re­lated deaths in the first nine months of 2017, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. Last year for the same time pe­riod there were 30. In­creases were seen in every county on the Mid-Shore with the ex­cep­tion of Kent, which had five deaths in the pe­riod in 2016 and 2017.

Since the last quar­terly re­port, re­leased in June, there have been 553 deaths, with 472 re­lated to opi­oids. Of those opiod-re­lated deaths, 374 in­volved fen­tanyl and 261 in­volved heroin, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. On the Mid-Shore, there have been 12 deaths since June, with the high­est in­crease in Caroline County, which had four.

Across the state, the largest in­creases in over­dose deaths con­tinue to be re­lated to fen­tanyl and from co­caine use com­bined with opi­oids. How­ever, there has been a slight de­cline in the over­all num­ber of heroin-re­lated and pre­scrip­tion opi­oid-re­lated deaths when com­par­ing third quar­ter data for 2016 and 2017, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

On the Mid-Shore, fen­tanyl-re­lated over­doses were at 21 from Jan­uary through Septem­ber. The break­down by county is: Caroline, six; Dorch­ester, five; Kent, three; Queen Anne’s, four; and Tal­bot, three, which is a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease from the six last year within the same time frame.

Look­ing at the year-to-date data for opi­oidrelated deaths ver­sus 2016 year-end to­tals, sev­eral coun­ties are close to sur­pass­ing those to­tals while Dorch­ester County is on a path to dou­bling its num­bers. In 2016, Dorch­ester had five opi­oid-re­lated deaths; the county al­ready had re­ported eight through Septem­ber 2017.

The to­tals for the other Mid-Shore coun­ties are: Caroline, nine to seven; Kent, four to four; Queen Anne’s, six to five; and Tal­bot, 10 to eight.

Over the first three quar­ters of the year, the per­cent­age of opi­oid-re­lated deaths in­volv­ing fen­tanyl in­creased from 56 per­cent of all opi­oid-re­lated deaths in 2016 to 78 per­cent in 2017. For all of 2016 there were 1,119 fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths across the state; through the first three quar­ters of 2017 there were 1,173, an in­crease of 54 deaths.

In Caroline in 2016, there were three fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths and for 2017 there are six; Dorch­ester re­ported three last year and five in 2017; Kent re­ported three for 2016 and three for 2017; and Queen Anne’s re­ported four for 2016 and four for 2017. Tal­bot had the only re­duced to­tals; last year there were seven fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths and by this re­port there were only three.

Through­out 2016, the num­ber of hero­in­re­lated deaths ex­ceeded the num­ber of fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths; this trend has re­versed in 2017, with fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths out­pac­ing heroin-re­lated deaths in each quar­ter. More than two-thirds of all over­dose deaths through Septem­ber 2017 in­volved fen­tanyl, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Depart­ment of Health re­port.

For the state there were 903 heroin-re­lated deaths by the third quar­terly re­port of 2016; in 2017 dur­ing the same time pe­riod there were 847. On the Mid-Shore, there were 15 for each year.

The num­ber of fa­tal co­caine over­doses in­creased 47 per­cent in the first nine months of 2017, com­pared to the same time in 2016. Much of this in­crease is due to fen­tanyl be­ing com­bined with co­caine, of­ten un­be­knownst to the user. Fen­tanyl was present in 50 per­cent of fa­tal co­caine over­doses in 2016 and 68 per­cent in 2017 for the pe­riod of Jan­uary through Septem­ber.

There were 495 co­caine-re­lated deaths in Mary­land, with 11 on the Mid-Shore. The break­down: two in Caroline, six in Dorch­ester, one in Kent, one in Queen Anne’s and one in Tal­bot. In 2016, the Mid-Shore had nine co­caine-re­lated deaths.

The to­tal num­ber of heroin-re­lated and pre­scrip­tion opi­oid-re­lated deaths, which were flat in a com­par­i­son be­tween the sec­ond quar­ter data for 2016 and 2017, have started to show a slight drop. Through the third quar­ter of 2017, the num­ber of hero­in­re­lated deaths fell by 56 when com­pared to the first three quar­ters of 2016. Pre­scrip­tion opi­oid-re­lated deaths fell by 11 dur­ing the same pe­riod.

Mary­land has en­acted sev­eral laws that may be con­tribut­ing to the de­cline. These in­clude ex­panded ac­cess to nalox­one and the Good Sa­mar­i­tan Law, which pro­vides pro­tec­tion from ar­rest as well as pros­e­cu­tion for cer­tain spe­cific crimes and ex­pands the charges from which peo­ple as­sist­ing in an emer­gency over­dose are im­mune.

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