Opioid-related deaths up in Maryland

WASHINGTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to increase at an alarming rate in the D.C. region.

In Maryland, the number of deaths due to opioids jumped from almost 1,100 in 2015 to more than 1,800 last year, according to a just-released final report from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The report counted a total of 2,089 deaths from drug- and alcohol-related overdoses in Maryland last year, the largest number in state history.

Contributing to the sharp rise in opioid-related deaths is the fact that people who think they’re using heroin are often getting an unknown dose of the much more powerful drug fentanyl.

“It makes it that much easier for them to overdose,” the department’s Christopher Garrett said.

Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine was the keynote speaker at a community meeting about the opioid epidemic Thursday night at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge.

“Like Maryland, 2016 was not a good year,” said Levine.

Preliminary figures show opioid-related deaths in the Commonwealth increased from about 800 in 2015 to around 1,100 in 2016.

Levine said final numbers are expected in about a month.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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