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Surge in Opioid and Substance Abuse Linked to Ongoing Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has likely contributed to a surge in opioid and other substance abuse fatalities, state health officials said Tuesday in releasing their 2020 second-quarter report.

There were 1,326 unintentional intoxication deaths from all types of drugs and alcohol reported in Maryland during the first two quarters of 2020, said the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center and the Maryland Department of Health. That figure is a 9.1 percent increase from the 1,215 intoxication deaths reported in the first half of 2019. Opioids were involved in 1,187 intoxication deaths during this time, representing almost 90 percent of all such fatalities and an increase of 9.4 percent above the same period last year.


Coronavirus Pandemic Threatens the Progress Made in Decreasing Substance Abuse


“The progress that we made against the scourge of opioids and other substances in recent years has been erased by the coronavirus pandemic in a few short months,” said Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford. “It is up to us to fight back, and Marylanders need to know that we are mustering every resource at our disposal to do so.”

The synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to play an increasing role in the majority of not only opioid-related deaths but also all intoxication-related deaths in the state. There were 1,100 deaths involving fentanyl through the second quarter of 2020, accounting for 92.7 percent of all opioid-related deaths and 83.0 percent of all intoxication-related deaths. Fentanyl-related deaths increased by 11.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Additionally, there was an 8.1 percent increase in deaths involving prescription opioids in the first two quarters of 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019.


Millions of Dollars in Grants Enacted for Substance Abuse Recovery-Support Systems


Officials said they are working with over a dozen partners, such as MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration, to ensure that mortality-reduction, treatment, and recovery-support systems are in place for individuals in need. State agencies have begun using new data sources to increase monitoring of overdose-related events so that resources can be directed to those areas of the state with the most need.

The state also has distributed grant awards targeted at opioid and substance use. At the end of August, the OOCC awarded nearly $10 million in state grant funding to support community-specific programs aimed at stopping substance use where it begins.

The awards included $5.6 million in competitive grants and $4.0 million in block grants. The competitive grants will be used to address the needs of individual organizations around the state, while the block grants will be distributed among the Opioid Intervention Teams in each of the state’s 24 jurisdictions to fight the crisis in ways that best meet their local needs. The state is also tracking recent spikes in deaths involving non-opioid substances, including alcohol- and cocaine-related fatalities. Alcohol, in combination with other substances, was responsible for 287 deaths in the first half of 2020 – almost 35 percent more deaths than it was in the first half of 2019. Furthermore, there were 486 cocaine-related intoxication deaths in the first half of 2020, a 13.3 percent increase from the same period last year. The vast majority of fatalities involving non-opioid substances also involved opioids. Increases in deaths related to non-opioid substances are indicative of increases in substance misuse more generally and its exacerbation by the despair caused by the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.


The Baltimore Attorneys at The Law Office of Evan K. Thalenberg are Actively Taking Cases


The ensuing pandemic has taken a toll on us all, but our family members and neighbors who are already affected by disease and addiction are disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. Much of the progress that those suffering with addiction have made have been hindered by the overwhelm that the coronavirus has caused in our society. If you or a loved one suffer from an opioid addiction that has suffered severe injury or death, we urge you to contact the opioid injury attorneys at The Law Office of Evan K. Thalenberg by calling 1-800-778-1181 or filling out the form here:


Information from this article was sourced from the Opioid Operational Command Center, Department of Health Release Opioid and Intoxication Fatality Data for Second Quarter of 2020. Click here to read the full press release.