Opioid-related deaths decline 16% in first quarter in Maryland

Fentanyl, Heroin, and Prescription Opioid-Related Deaths Show Decline

News Release, Before It’s Too Late

ANNAPOLIS, MD — The Maryland Department of Health and Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) have released the 2019 first quarter reports today, which include preliminary data for unintentional drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths through the first quarter of 2019, and separately, performance measures by state agencies and Maryland’s 24 opioid intervention teams (OITs), details about opioid-related spending, and information regarding Maryland’s fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic.

During this three-month period, which includes January through March 2019, there were 577 total unintentional intoxication deaths, a 15 percent decrease as compared to the same period in 2018. Of the total, 515 (89 percent) were opioid-related deaths, primarily attributable to fentanyl. Opioid-related deaths declined by 14.3 percent.

Heroin-related deaths continued to decline, decreasing 23 percent in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018. Prescription opioid-related deaths declined by 16 percent in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.  

“We’ve seen a decrease in deaths during this first quarter and continue to work diligently to combat this epidemic,” said Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall. “Treatment and prevention options are available 24/7 for those who want it. They can dial 211 and press 1 to find assistance. Our goal is to get support to everyone who needs help as soon as possible.”  

Fentanyl continues to be the deadliest substance, with 474 fentanyl-related deaths occurring in the first quarter. This represents an 8 percent decrease over the same time period last year. Fentanyl was involved in 92 percent of opioid-related deaths during this period.

Cocaine-related deaths, the third most prevalent drug involved with overdose deaths, declined as well. Comparing the periods of January through March 2018 and 2019, the number of cocaine-related deaths decreased 21 percent. The increase in cocaine-related deaths over the last several years can be attributed to cocaine combined with opioids, which were found in 89 percent of cocaine-related deaths so far in 2019.

The first quarter Fatal Overdose Data Report is attached here.

“We also are encouraged by the fact that 16 of Maryland’s 24 local jurisdictions experienced declines in the number of opioid-related fatalities during the first quarter of 2019. We have never witnessed so many counties reporting declines in the number of opioid-related fatalities,” said Steve Schuh, executive director, OOCC. “But the heroin and opioid crisis in Maryland is by no means over. More than 500 of our friends, family members, and neighbors lost their lives to opioid use disorder during the first quarter of 2019. That’s why we continue to work every day with our federal, state, local, and community partners to save the lives of our fellow Marylanders.”

The OOCC tracks more than 170 state-level performance metrics pertaining to opioid-related programs being implemented by various state agencies and additional state government partners, as well as more than 30 local-level programs and initiatives implemented by various local partners through the OITs. For example, the number of jurisdictions reporting implementing locally-led programs to educate prescribers about best practices in prescribing opioids or pain medications has increased by 171 percent, from seven prior to March 2017 to 19 in the first quarter of 2019.

The OOCC’s Quarterly Report can be found here.

Before It’s Too Late is the state’s effort to bring awareness to this epidemic—and to mobilize resources for effective prevention, treatment and recovery. Marylanders struggling with a substance use disorder can find help at BeforeItsTooLateMD.org, by calling 211 and pressing 1, or by texting their zip code to 898-211.

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