A bar graph of overdose deaths. Information via the Opioid Operational Command Center.

Deaths from opioid overdoses increased yet again in Maryland last year. According to a new report from the statewide Opioid Operational Command Center, 2,385 Marylanders died from unintentional intoxication, of whom nearly 87 percent–or 2,114 people–were opioid users.

That’s up from 2,282 deaths in 2017 and 2,089 deaths in 2016. From 2013 to 2015, the number of fatal overdoses was 858, 1,041 and 1,259, respectively.

Counts for 2018 are still preliminary, the agency said.

Nearly 800 people died in Baltimore City, the highest total of any jurisdiction in the state. In 2017, 692 Baltimoreans fatally overdosed from opioids. Around the rest of the region, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Carroll counties also saw increases in fatal overdoses, while Howard and Harford counties saw their totals decline slightly.

In the city, approximately 50 residents died from an unintended opioid overdose out of every 100,000 people, more than double the rate for the rest of Maryland.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl is increasingly the culprit for accidental overdoses. While deaths from the drug were as low as 340 in Maryland in 2015, the number of fatalities shot up to 1,119 in 2016 and has increased steadily since. Last year, 1,866 people died because of fentanyl.

Fentanyl has also contributed to a spike in cocaine-related fatalities. Of the 884 deaths linked to that drug last year, about 89 percent were the result of mixing in fentanyl.

Across Maryland, heroin-related deaths have actually decreased, dropping from a high of 1,212 in 2016 to 822 in 2018. But, the state cautioned, “this may be the result of displacement of heroin for fentanyl as the drug of choice for many users.”

Since Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in response to the opioid epidemic in 2017, the state has stepped up its efforts in prevention, treatment and education, the Opioid Operational Command Center said. More jurisdictions have implemented mobile crisis teams and referral treatment for people leaving a correctional facility, the report said.

Counties have also increased support programs that employers can use for workers who need treatment, as well as youth who are impacted by addiction by overdose or addiction in their home, the state said.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...