Opioid-related deaths are up across the state after 2019 marked the first year of decline since the opioid crisis started.
Overdose deaths dropped last year for the first time in a decade, yet still claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people. Data for the first quarter of 2020, meanwhile, shows a 2.6% increase in opioid deaths compared with the same time period last year.
State officials have pointed to the pandemic as a possible factor, at least for part of March; Maryland didn’t report its first case of COVID-19 until mid-March. Still, a variety of pandemic-related factors, such as stress, lack of in-person support groups, closures of treatment facilities, many services on hold, could have affected deaths in the region. The state hasn’t yet released second-quarter data, which will show any increases or declines for April, May and June — during which time the state remained under a stay-at-home order.
In the first quarter of 2020 Maryland lost 626 people to intoxication deaths — 561 of those were opioid deaths. Fentanyl continues to drive overdose deaths and was involved in almost 84% of all reported deaths in this year’s first quarter. This marks a 4.4% increase in fentanyl-related deaths for the first quarter of 2020, compared with the same months of 2019. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Opioid related emergency visits and Narcan administrations, meanwhile, sharply declined. State officials have noted this as an anomaly, perhaps related to the pandemic, as usually those metrics increase as deaths increase.
First quarter data also shows a slight increase in intoxication deaths for all substances — with a substantial increase in alcohol- and cocaine-related deaths.
Heroin and prescription opioid deaths, however, declined in the first quarter. Heroin deaths, which have declined since 2016, decreased by about 28%. This trend reflects fentanyl replacing heroin in the last few years. Opioids overall, however, continue to be involved in most of the state’s fatalities, often mixed with other non-opioid substances like cocaine.
Talbot County had three opioid-related deaths last year, according to the state’s data. It has had the same amount, three, in the first three months of this year.
Talbot Goes Purple is an educational and awareness prevention program that empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse. The purpose of the program is to promote the “new conversation” — one that includes prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana and e-cigarettes. TGP focuses on educating students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and works toward preventing kids from beginning to use these substances in the first place.
An initiative from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and Tidewater Rotary, in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools, Saints Peter & Paul School and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Talbot Goes Purple empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse.
Talbot Goes Purple is a component fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — donations to which are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.