DHMH releases 2016 overdose death data

66 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 driven by opioids

CAMBRIDGE — Late last week, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released its 2016 fatal overdose data.

The report found that 2,089 people died from overdoses last year, a 66 percent increase from 2015’s data. The largest surge was seen in residents 55 and older.

Major findings from the report include: The increase in the number of drug- and alcohol-related intoxication deaths between 2015 and 2016 is the largest single-year increase that has been recorded in Maryland. The number of intoxication deaths has more than tripled since 2010.

The increase in fatal overdoses has been most rapid among individuals 55 and older. The number of deaths among this age group increased five-fold between 2010 and 2016, from 86 to 424.

Eighty-nine percent of all intoxication deaths that occurred in Maryland in 2016 were opioid-related. Opioid-related deaths include deaths related to heroin, prescription opioids, and nonpharmaceutical fentanyl. The number of opioid-related deaths increased by 70 percent between 2015 and 2016, and has nearly quadrupled since 2010.

Non-opioid-related drug deaths have also been increasing, but at a slower rate. Large increases in the number of heroin and fentanyl-related deaths were largely responsible for the overall rise in opioid-related deaths.

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of heroin-related deaths increased by 62 percent, from 748 to 1,212, and the number of fentanyl-related deaths more than tripled, from 340 to 1,119. The number of prescription-opioid related deaths increased by 19 percent, from 351 to 418; many of these deaths occurred in combination with heroin and/or fentanyl.

Unfortunately, the Eastern Shore is in-line with the statewide trend. In Dorchester County, the total number of overdose deaths grew from one in 2015 to six in 2016; all of the deaths were related to heroin, fentanyl or opioids. In Eastern Shore counties from Cecil to Somerset, the total number of intoxication deaths jumped from 88 in 2015 to 154 in 2016. The biggest increase occurred in neighboring Wicomico County, where the number grew from 18 in 2015 to 48 in 2016.

Editor’s note: In past communications with the Banner, many county leaders have stated that people struggling with substance use, including heroin, fentanyl or opioids, will not be arrested if they seek help through the Dorchester County Health Department.

If you or your loved ones need help dealing with substance use, reach out to the county health department or stop by the Dri-Dock, which is staffed by peers who themselves struggled with substance use in the past.

The Dorchester County Health Department is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 3 Cedar St., Cambridge, near the McDonald’s, 410-228-3223. The Dri-Dock is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 208 Sunburst Highway (Route 50), Cambridge, 410-228-3230.

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