Fentanyl Driving Still-Troubling Opioid Caseloads, Fatalities

The latest Maryland data on opioid related fatalities show a chilling picture – fentanyl is driving opioid deaths beyond those from 2019, likely arising from multiple social causes.

From the latest Maryland release:

According to MDH’s Vital Statistics Administration, there were 2,025 unintentional intoxication deaths involving all types of drugs and alcohol in Maryland between January and September of 2020. This figure represents a 12.1 percent increase from the same period in 2019, when there were 1,806 such fatalities. These increases are likely the result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted treatment and recovery support systems and has led to economic stress, despair, and uncertainty, especially among vulnerable populations. Officials believe that these circumstances have elevated substance misuse not only in Maryland but also across the country. The CDC cites an increase of 16.9 percent in reported fatalities from all types of drugs between May 2019 and May 2020. CDC officials have indicated that this figure may continue to increase as toxicology reports confirm more cases. Officials also noted that these increases have accelerated across the country as pandemic conditions worsened.

Fentanyl, the overpowering opioid derivative, is playing a dominant role in our state’s most serious cases:

Opioids were involved in 1,829 deaths, or over 93 percent, of this year’s cases, representing an increase of 14.5 percent as compared to the same period in 2019. Fentanyl remains the opioid responsible for the most fatalities in the state. Fentanyl factored into 93.1 percent of all opioid-related deaths from January to September of 2020. Deaths related to prescription opioids and non-opioid substances, including cocaine and alcohol, also increased during the reporting period.

Information on the opioid crisis – both data and resources for assistance – is available at Maryland’s website Before It’s Too Late.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties