By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Whether it’s night or day, opioid overdoses in Baltimore are an around-the-clock epidemic. Especially when fentanyl is mixed in; a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin.

According to Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, “Since 2013, we’ve gone from 12 fentanyl deaths in one year to 500.”

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Fentanyl was originally developed as an anesthetic for surgeries.

“I’m an anesthesiologist,” says Dr. Renee Blanding with Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “Never in all my life did I believe fentanyl would be killing our citizens on the street.”

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To combat it and other opioids, Baltimore’s 11 hospitals are pledging to do more. They will continue to treat overdoses in the emergency room, but they will also provide treatment for other patients who screen positive for addiction, and will make antidotes like Narcan available. They will also provide support services and limit the prescriptions for opioids.

“We know that addiction has to be treated like a disease,” says Wen. “No hospital would ever say we don’t treat patients with cancer, or we don’t treat patients with diabetes, but across the country hospitals are telling patients they cannot treat the disease of addiction. Which is unacceptable, because we are in the midst of a deadly drug epidemic.”

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