The opioid epidemic has taken ahold of the entire nation. According to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February, more than 183,000 Americans died from overdoses linked to prescription opioids during the last 16 years. For Maryland, the number of fatal overdoses is rising drastically. On Friday, the state health department released details providing insight into the overdoses during the first quarter of the year.
From the months of January to March, Maryland experienced 550 overdose deaths. During the same period last year, the figure was 401. That equates to a 37 percent increase. Even worse was the fact that the numbers showed that fentanyl use is on the rise in Maryland. The drug, which is often mixed with street heroin, is fifty times more potent. The powerful painkiller has caused more deaths than ever before, doubling from the previous year.
Fentanyl related overdoses climbed 137 percent. During the same period last year, 157 overdose deaths were attributed to fentanyl use. This year, the number is 372. The cheap and immensely powerful drug is often produced overseas and smuggled into the United States. An even bigger problem is on the rise and that is carfentanil. Carfentanil is one hundred times more potent than heroin.
In Maryland, authorities have tried to curb the number of drug overdoses using naloxone. The drug, which is manufactured by companies, such as Amphastar Pharmaceuticals and Kaleo, is capable of reversing overdoses. The prices of the lifesaving drug have increased during recent times. Baltimore City uses a spray naloxone, which is made by Amphastar. The price has increased from $20.34 in 2009 to $39.60 in 2017. Kaleo’s dual-pack auto-injector of naloxone costed roughly $690 in 2014. The price has since jumped to $4,500.
Many manufacturers of the medication do provide discounts to states and consumers. To date, it is estimated that naloxone has saved more than 800 people in Baltimore. Unfortunately, naloxone is far less effective against fentanyl sometimes taking two or even three times the quantity to effectively save a life. It is almost certain that the overdose numbers would be far higher without this lifesaving drug.