Maryland Governor: Opioids Are 'Urgent and Growing Public Health Threat'

Fatal overdoses are increasing in Maryland, new health report shows.

Heroin-related fatalities are on the rise in Maryland, recent report shows. (Credit: Getty Images)
Heroin-related fatalities are on the rise in Maryland, recent report shows. (Credit: Getty Images)
Heroin deaths have risen in Maryland over the last year, in part due to users turning away from prescription drugs, according to a report released by the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene on Friday.

There has been an 88 percent increase in heroin deaths in Maryland since 2011, according to the report.

Now, Gov. Martin O'Malley issued an executive order creating a task force to address Maryland's drug problem. The Governor's Overdose Prevention Council is to tackle what he called the "urgent and growing public health threat" that has caused an "opioid overdose epidemic."

Opioids include heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone, fentanyl, tramadol and codeine, according to the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

The department found there was a "shift from prescription opioids to heroin," leading to a rise in heroin-related deaths from 2012 to 2013, O'Malley said.

Notable statistics from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene's report on Maryland's drug use in 2013, compared with 2012:

  • Heroin deaths rose 50 percent among those 25 to 34 years old.
  • Heroin deaths rose 40 percent among those 55 and older.
  • Heroin deaths increased by 18 percent (from 392 to 464).
  • Alcohol and drug-related overdose deaths increased 7 percent (there were 858).
  • Fentanyl-related deaths doubled, from 29 to 58. Fentanyl is prescribed for patients in pain—for example, after surgery—according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is more potent than heroin, with greater risk of fatal overdose. Batches of fentanyl produced "in clandestine laboratories" led to a wave of fatal overdoses late in 2013, according to the report.

The Governor's Overdose Prevention Council will provide quarterly updates and an annual report on its efforts to reduce overdose deaths by 20 percent by the end of 2015, according to the executive order.

"By working together to lift our fellow Marylanders out of addiction, we will ensure that we continue to keep our neighborhoods safe, and protect the health of our loved ones," O'Malley said.

In the next 60 days, state agencies will create a plan for training all first responders how to administer naloxone, according to the executive order. The injection is used to reverse heroin overdoses.

Some jurisdictions, like Anne Arundel County, have already incorporated this training into their police forces. Howard County announced Friday that it would employ a similar strategy, according to WJLA.

Members of the Governor's Overdose Prevention Council include the Department of Health and Mental HygieneMaryland State PoliceDepartment of Public Safety and Correctional ServicesDepartment of Juvenile ServicesInstitute for Emergency Medical Services SystemsGovernor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention and the Office of Problem Solving Courts.


Stephanie June 28, 2014 at 06:13 PM
Fentanyl is not prescribed after surgery unless you have been on narcotics for a long while. While this appears to be a problem on the streets, it has made those that need prescriptions to function nearly impossible and they are labeled/scrutinized. Someone that can appease both scenarios and has legitimate knowledge should be appointed to this "diversion control" effort. It is impossible to do right thing for everyone. If someone dies from a heroin overdose, so be it. It was their decision to use it in the first place.
Sally Adams July 21, 2014 at 11:07 PM
I agree with Stephanie completely. People whose bodies are destroyed from years of over exertion and need these medicines are looked down on just as poorly as those who are knodding out in the Drs office and have NO business being there to begin with. Those who choose to misuse and abuse pain medicine willfully make that choice and then blaim the Drs as if they were the ones who said take 10 a day instead of the 3 your supposed to. I have NO pitty for the selfish, thieving liars who overdoes as a byproduct of their decisions to wreck as many lives as possible. On their path of evil and destruction. Let them die all they are doing is causing more harm by bringing them back.


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