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Thousands died from drug overdoses in Maryland but fatalities decline slightly

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iStock/DarwinBrandis
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Advocates across Maryland gathered on International Drug Overdose Awareness Day to remember lives lost due to drugs and raise awareness to prevent more deaths. There were more than 2,600 fatal overdoses across Maryland for the past 12 months ending this April, down from roughly 2,900 from the same time frame in 2021. The vast majority of overdose deaths stemmed from fentanyl, Maryland Health Department data shows.

Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore is one organization working to prevent overdoses across Baltimore City. Its outreach arm, B’More Power, launched a campaign urging people to “Go Slow” if they still choose to use drugs because fentanyl is so prevalent and powerful compared to heroin.

There were 1,022 overdose deaths over the past 12 months through April across the city, state data shows. In 2021 during the same time frame, there were 1,087 overdose deaths.

There were fewer drug overdose fatalities in Baltimore County. Over the past 12 months through April, there were 358 overdose deaths in the county compared to 414 overdose deaths in 2021.

In Prince George’s County, the number of individuals who died from drug overdoses increased from 205 in 2021 to 224 this year.

Maryland Public Health Data
Maryland State Department of Health
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Maryland Public Health Data

Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore advocates recommend individuals who use opioids also carry a drug meant to rapidly reverse overdoses known as Naloxone and not to use drugs alone.

B’More Power distributed 15,273 Naloxone kits across the city, said Adrienne Breidenstine, vice president of policy and communications for the nonprofit.

Each kit contains two shots of Naloxone including first aid, hand sanitizers and information about the 988 suicide prevention lifeline. The 24-hour hotline also provides people in the community information about mental health and addiction treatment.

The outreach team also talks to people about how they use their drugs.

“To make sure they’re using them in the safest way possible,” Breidenstine said.

Aside from handing out the kits, the team also passes out Fentanyl testing strips.

“We think that Naloxone should be as easily accessible as addiction treatment and other types of services,” she said.

Years ago, addiction services treatment that included opioid overdose reversal medication was controversial compared to drug abstinence but advocates say it is much more accepted in the public.

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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