Fentanyl Drug Killed Hundreds In Maryland In First Quarter of 2017
According to a recent announcement from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, deaths linked to fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, spiked markedly in the first quarter of this year – more than double from the first quarter of 2016. The drug is now responsible for the majority of drug overdose deaths in the state.
Moreover, fatalities related to fentanyl surged to 372 from January-March, a significant increase from 157 from the first quarter of 2016. In 2013, there were just eight deaths from fentanyl in Maryland.
Fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and is so potent, those who handle the drug must use protective gear to avoid incurring an overdose from just incidental skin contact.
As a prescription, it is usually administered for severe pain slowly through a transdermal patch on the skin. Officials believe, however, that most illicit fentanyl found on the street is made in clandestine labs, and not a product of drug diverse.
Many of those who use fentanyl are unaware of its presence, as it is often laced into heroin and other drugs. Dealers like to use it because it increases profits as it’s inexpensive and a little goes a long way.
Heroin-related deaths have also increased, but as dramatically. In the first quarter of 2017, there were 266 overdose deaths from heroin, a 21% increase from the same period in 2016. Also, the number of overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers has remained about the same from 2016-2017 – 100 in the first quarter compared to 99 last year.
Deaths linked to opioids in Maryland have increased each year since 2012, with marked rises in both 2016 and 2017.
Baltimore health officials have reported the highest number of drug overdoses and the most deaths due to the fentanyl drug in the state (a staggering 123 in the first quarter of 2017.) Next is Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology