Opioid overdoses on the rise, despite federal and state programs

WASHINGTON – Opioids are responsible for 86 percent of Maryland’s overdose deaths, and the numbers keep rising, even as states scramble to curtail them.

Those tracking heroin, fentanyl and opioid prescription deaths — both statewide and nationally — are reporting staggering numbers.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said overdose deaths related to opioids are up 14 percent from the year before.

“The most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers, those classified as natural or semi-synthetic opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type. These deaths increased by 9 percent (813 more deaths in 2014 than 2013),” the federal agency says in a news release.

Both Maryland and Virginia are working to change their numbers, but both also report more deaths from opioids last year than in 2013.

Virginia estimates it will see more than 750 deaths related to overdoses when the year comes to a close. Its final numbers are not yet released.

“This is up from last year’s number of 733 fatal opioid overdoses, which would mean an increase of approximately 5.7 to 9.1 percent in the number of deaths from 2014 compared to 2015,” said Rosie Hobron, who tracks deaths in the chief medical examiner’s office.

Maryland’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force handed its first report to Gov. Larry Hogan earlier this month, showing 887 opioid-related deaths in 2014, a 23 percent increase from the year before.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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