State data show 21% increase in '15 fatal overdoses over previous year
Fentanyl deaths since 2012 skyrocketed; heroin-related tripled since 2010
Baltimore, MD (June 9, 2016) – The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today released the 2015 Drug- and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland Report. The report found that there was a 21 percent increase in the number of deaths in 2015, compared with 2014’s data.
“Maryland, like many states across the nation, has been in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Health and Mental Hygiene continues our work to try to save lives by making residents aware of the peril associated with substance-use disorder and of the resources available to treat those who grapple with this problem,” said Secretary Van T. Mitchell.
The annual report describes trends in the number of unintentional drug- and alcohol-related intoxication deaths, commonly referred to as fatal overdoses, occurring in Maryland between 2007 and 2015. Fighting substance-use disorder and the opioid epidemic in Maryland has been a major priority of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration. Major findings from the report, posted at, include:
·         A total of 1,259 overdose deaths occurred in Maryland in 2015. The number of intoxication deaths has nearly doubled since 2010.
·         Eighty-six percent of all overdose deaths in 2015 involved opioids – which include heroin, fentanyl and such prescription drugs as oxycodone and methadone. Large increases in the number of deaths involving heroin and fentanyl were responsible for the overall increase in opioid-related deaths:
o   Between 2014 and 2015, the number of heroin-related deaths increased by 29 percent (from 578 to 748), the number of fentanyl-related deaths nearly doubled (from 186 to 340), and the number of prescription-opioid related deaths increased by 6 percent (from 330 to 351).
o   The number of fentanyl-related deaths began increasing in late 2013 as a result of overdoses involving nonpharmaceutical fentanyl, that is, nonprescription fentanyl produced in clandestine laboratories and mixed with, or substituted for, heroin or other illicit substances. Fentanyl is many times more potent than heroin, and greatly increases the risk of an overdose death. The number of deaths caused by fentanyl has increased 12-fold since 2012.
Health and Mental Hygiene has been collaborating with federal, state and local partners to try to reduce the number of overdoses and has been combating and responding to the increase in overdose deaths. With support from Governor Hogan, the department has expanded access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses opioid drug overdoses.
In December 2015, a standing prescription order under Deputy Secretary of Public Health Dr. Howard Haft was issued. The order allows all Maryland-licensed pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription to anyone trained and certified under the Department’s Overdose Response Program. Health and Mental Hygiene has authorized 49 of organizations to conduct naloxone trainings and to issue certificates, including all local health departments, substance-use treatment programs, community organizations and law enforcement agencies. Nearly 23,000 people have been certified by these organizations since the Program was established in March 2014.
Also in 2015, the Maryland Good Samaritan Law​ went into effect. It provides protection from arrest, as well as prosecution, for certain specific crimes and expands the charges from which people assisting in an emergency overdose situation – such as administering naloxone – are immune.
Because opioid addiction often has its roots in prescribed medication, Health and Mental Hygiene co-sponsored Scope of Pain last fall, a prescriber-education seminar geared toward training providers in managing their patients’ chronic pain in ways to not facilitate addiction to opioids. Clinical provider education and resources continue to be a critical focus of the department’s addiction-prevention strategy, being achieved through Continuing Medical Education and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Maryland’s PDMP allows providers and pharmacists access to their patients’ history of prescribed medications. Providers will be required to use the PDMP this coming October to obtain a Controlled Dangerous Substance permit.
The Department is also expanding access to Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). SBIRT is an evidence-based tool designed to identify individuals who have the potential for substance abuse and to provide medical intervention. It has been implemented in 53 community primary care centers and two hospitals in 15 jurisdictions across Maryland with the expectation of screening at least 90,000 individuals. 
Because people who die from overdoses often have histories of hospitalization for nonfatal overdoses, the department also has been working to intervene in Marylanders’ lives after they survive an overdose. The Overdose Survivors’ Outreach Project engages overdose survivors in hospital emergency departments with peer recovery specialists, who assist them in enrolling in substance-use disorder treatment and support services. Peers are working within select emergency departments across the state to persuade overdose survivors and individuals who have  substance-use disorders to seek treatment. If individuals do not wish to pursue treatment at that time, peers follow up with them in efforts to persuade them and to provide continuous support.
Maryland Medicaid also has implemented a Corrective Managed Care program to identify participants who may be utilizing excessive quantities of controlled substances, especially when multiple prescribers and pharmacies are involved. Each month, specific participants are identified, their drug and diagnosis histories are reviewed and a determination is made whether an educational intervention letter should be sent to all prescribers and pharmacies affiliated with those participants. If intervention letters are insufficient and drug utilization does not improve, Medicaid participants can be restricted to a single pharmacy to reduce possible misuse or diversion.
Marylanders who need help finding substance abuse treatment resources should visit or call the Maryland Crisis Hotline, which provides 24/7 support, at 1-800-422-0009. For information on many of the policies currently implemented to fight addiction and overdose in Maryland, see If you know of someone who could use treatment for substance abuse, treatment facilities can be located by location and program characteristics on our page at
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the State agency that protects Maryland’s public health. We work together to promote and improve the health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to care, quality management, and community engagement. Stay connected:  and ​