BALTIMORE (WJZ)– It is an epidemic across Maryland communities. Startling new numbers show the number of overdose deaths in the state have spiked in 2016.
“You know people that are here today and gone tomorrow. It’s just that quick,” said one woman.
Between January and June, 920 people died from fatal overdoses. This is a huge jump from 2015, when 601 were killed. The numbers have even shocked health officials.
“This is frustrating and really terrible because it is about people in our communities who are dying,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
The bulk of the deaths are occurring in Baltimore City, as well as Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Wen attributes the spike to the powerful painkiller, fentanyl. The drug is being mixed into cocaine and heroin without buyers even knowing it. It’s the same drug that killed singer, Prince.
“I give fentanyl to my patients in the ER who have been involved in bad car accidents and may have broken their hip and are screaming in pain,” said Dr. Wen.
The city has started a fentanyl task force, deploying teams to certain neighborhoods to warn about the dangers of the drug. Still Dr. Wen recommends everyone get trained to use Narcan, a drug that can reverse an overdose.
“Everybody should have Narcan in our medicine cabinets, in our first aid kit, because if we each have the ability to save a life we should be able to do that,” said Dr. Wen.
Overdose deaths in Maryland are investigated as homicides, giving prosecutors the power to go after drug dealers.