Fentanyl most prevalent drug in overdose deaths
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.