Unintentional Intoxication Deaths Top 1,800 in First 9 Months of 2018

    More than 1,800 Marylanders died unintentionally from drug- and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in the first nine months of 2018, state statistics show.

    The Maryland Department of Health on Tuesday released preliminary data for unintentional drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. During the nine-month period, there were 1,848 total unintentional intoxication deaths, an 8 percent increase over the same period in 2017. Of the total, 1,648 were opioid-related deaths, a 10 percent increase, which can primarily be attributed to fentanyl.

    Heroin-related deaths decreased 23 percent in 2018 compared with the same January through September period in 2017. Prescription opioid-related deaths declined by 10 percent in the first three quarters of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

    “We’ve seen a continued decline in heroin-related deaths since the third quarter of 2017, but despite that positive trend fentanyl-related deaths and cocaine-related deaths in combination with opioids continue to surge,” said Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall.

    Fentanyl continues to be the deadliest substance, with 1,449 fentanyl-related deaths occurring in the first three quarters of 2018. This is a 24 percent increase over the same time period last year. Fentanyl was responsible 88 percent of opioid-related deaths during this period.

    Cocaine-related deaths, the second most prevalent drug among overdose deaths, continue to rise as well, though deaths from cocaine not in combination with opioids dropped slightly. Comparing the period of January through September 2017 and 2018, the number of cocaine-related deaths increased 41 percent. The increase in cocaine-related deaths can be attributed to cocaine combined with opioids, which were found in nearly 90 percent of cocaine-related deaths so far in 2018.

    “Here in Maryland, all of our state agencies are highly engaged with local governments, the private sector, faith-based organizations, and service providers statewide,” said Steve Schuh, executive director of the Opioid Operational Command Center. “As fentanyl continues to ravage our communities, all hands are on deck and we are all working together to fight this epidemic.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.