Progress against Overdose Starts with Good Data
Drug and alcohol overdose is a major public health challenge in Maryland, with 663 associated deaths in 2011.  Today, Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is posting online the most comprehensive data report on this topic ever released in the state.
The report, called Drug and Alcohol Intoxication Deaths in Maryland, 2007-2011, uses the technical name for overdose of “intoxication death.”  It includes annual data from 2007 to 2011, broken down by involved substances and county.  It also provides initial data from 2012 through September.
The report finds that since 777 Marylanders died of overdose in 2007, overdose deaths have fallen among African-Americans and males, but have remained more stable among whites and females.  Until 2012, deaths associated with prescription drugs were generally trending up, and deaths associated with heroin were generally trending down. In recent months, however, there have been signs of reversal in both of these trends.  Maryland counties with the highest overdose death rates include Baltimore City, Cecil County, and Caroline County.  Counties with the lowest overdose death rates include Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Howard County.
The data in this report originated in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  Maryland law requires the Chief Medical Examiner to investigate all deaths occurring in the State that result from violence, suicide, casualty, or take place in a suspicious, unexpected or unusual manner.  Toxicological analysis is routinely performed when there is suspicion that a death was the result of drug or alcohol intoxication.
The data analysis was conducted by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Virtual Data Unit, led by Dr. Isabelle Horon.  The methodology in this report will guide ongoing analyses and releases of data down to the local level.
Our new focus on surveillance of drug and alcohol overdose is part of a public health approach to this challenge, which claims more lives in Maryland each year than homicide. Across the state, jurisdictions are using their data to guide the creation of overdose prevention plans. Through expansions in access to effective treatment for substance use disorders, enhanced recovery support, improved coordination with the criminal justice system, and other overdose initiatives, we will aim for significant, sustained progress.
Marylanders seeking access to drug treatment can access a directory of programs here, or call their local treatment coordinators, found here.