For many years, high rates of drug use in Baltimore have been linked to violent crimes and poor health for residents of the city. Hundreds of people die in the city every year due to unintentional drug- and alcohol-related overdoses.
According to the Maryland Department of Health, Baltimore has significantly higher rates of fatal drug overdoses than other parts of the state.
Fatal overdoses in Baltimore have remained consistently higher than overdoses that occur in other regions of the state since 2007. Drug use trends show an increase in fatal overdoses in Baltimore since 2011, while overdose rates remained relatively stable in other parts of the state.
There were 1,594 Maryland deaths related to fentanyl in 2017. The majority of those deaths occurred in Baltimore City or Baltimore County.
The Baltimore Metro area sees an exponentially higher rate of opioid-related deaths than any other part of the state.
In addition to providing statewide data on drug use, the Maryland Department of Health evaluates drug use trends in communities throughout the state.
Overall, the total number of fatal drug overdoses of any kind in Maryland in 2017 was 2,282. Of these deaths, 1,128 occurred in Baltimore County or Baltimore City.
Cocaine alone caused 691 fatal overdoses in Maryland, 285 of which were in Baltimore. Benzodiazepines caused 146 fatal overdoses in Maryland, 28 of which were in Baltimore. Alcohol caused 517 fatal overdoses in Maryland, 198 of which were in Baltimore.
Opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids, remain the leading cause of fatal overdoses in Baltimore. In Baltimore County and Baltimore City in 2017, 550 deaths were caused by heroin, prescription opioids caused 210 deaths, and 817 deaths were caused by fentanyl.
The Baltimore City Health Department has been working hard to tackle the negative impacts of drug use on the Baltimore community. In response to the opioid epidemic, the city has established a three-point strategy to combat this public health crisis. The strategy includes:
The city has initiated efforts to reduce incidents of hepatitis C, HIV, and other blood-borne diseases associated with injection drug use with a program called the Baltimore City Needle Exchange Program. As a major part of community risk reduction, this program reduces the circulation of unclean syringes and connects individuals struggling with substance use disorders to treatment programs and health services.
Finally, the Staying Alive Drug Overdose Prevention and Response Program was established in 2004 as part of a public health initiative to reduce rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. Since the program began, over 34,000 people have been trained in overdose prevention and response, and hundreds of lives have been saved in Baltimore.
Data collected by the Maryland Department of Health depicts a state that is struggling greatly with the opioid overdose epidemic. Opioid abuse has been the greatest cause of fatal drug overdoses for many years, though non-opioid-related drug overdoses are also a concern.
In 2017, 88 percent of fatal overdoses were related to opioid use. Heroin, prescription opioids, and fentanyl are all to blame for these deaths.
For seven years in a row now, the rate of drug- and alcohol-related overdoses has continued to increase. An all-time high was reached in 2017, with a 9 percent increase in fatal overdoses in one year. Since 2010, the number of alcohol- and drug-related overdoses has more than tripled.
The drugs most commonly being abused that are causing high rates of fatal overdoses throughout Maryland include:
The Maryland Department of Health notes that the majority of increases in overdose deaths are due to substances being mixed with opioids, primarily fentanyl. Seventy-one percent of cocaine-related deaths in 2017, for example, occurred in combination with fentanyl, while 50 percent of cocaine-related deaths occurred in combination with heroin.
An increase of overdose deaths throughout the state appears to be occurring across all demographics. Men and women of all age groups and ethnicities are suffering from fatal overdoses.
Current drug use statistics from Maryland reflect similar problems of opioid abuse that are occurring across the county. As the data from the Maryland Department of Health shows, opioid drugs being used in combination with other substances are causing significant increases in fatal overdoses.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Maryland is among the top five states in the country with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. Since 1999, the death rates of opioid overdoses have been above the national average every year, a gap that has widened significantly since 2013. On average, Maryland’s rate of opioid-related overdose deaths has always been one and a half to three times greater than the national rate.
In 2016, the rate of fatal opioid overdoses in Maryland was 30 deaths per 100,000 people. That same year, the national rate was 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
Fentanyl is to blame for the most recent spike of fatal overdoses caused by opioids. There were 1,821 total opioid overdose deaths in Maryland in 2016, 650 of which were due to synthetic opioids, and most of these were related to fentanyl.
Heroin and prescription opioids have also been causing a problem throughout the country and in Maryland.
In 2012, 173 overdose deaths in Maryland were due to heroin and 52 were due to prescription opioids. These death rates increased to 650 and 812 respectively in 2016.
Increasing rates of HIV, hepatitis, and neonatal abstinence syndrome are major public health concerns across the country due to rising rates of opioid abuse.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder in the Baltimore area, there are treatment options available. Treatment centers located in Baltimore include:
In addition to the above treatment centers, Baltimore offers a free Crisis, Information & Referral Line for men, women, and children who are experiencing an urgent need for mental health or substance use treatment. Crisis support, treatment information, and referral services are available through the helpline that is open 24/7 at (410) 433-5175
Baltimore City Needle Exchange Program. Baltimore City Health Department. Retrieved February 2019 from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/hiv-std-services/community-risk-reduction
Baltimore City’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic. Baltimore City Health Department. Retrieved February 2019 from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/opioid-overdose/baltimore-city-overdose-prevention-and-response-information
(February 2018). Maryland Opioid Summary. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/maryland-opioid-summary
Substance Use and Misuse. Baltimore City Health Department. Retrieved February 2019 from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/programs/substance-abuse
(June 2018). Unintentional Drug and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland, 2017. Maryland Department of Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://bha.health.maryland.gov/OVERDOSE_PREVENTION/Documents/Drug_Intox_Report_2017.pdf