BALTIMORE (WJZ) — While the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim thousands of lives in Maryland, new data shows a dramatic jump in drug and alcohol-related deaths across the state.

Last year’s numbers showed a decrease in fatalities, but because of the pandemic, officials said people are left feeling disconnected. They’re worried more people will fall victim.

The latest report from the Maryland Department of Health and the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center shows that in the first half of 2020, there were 1,326 fatalities related to drugs and alcohol, a 9.1% increase compared to the same period last year.

Nearly 90% of those deaths are due to opioids.

“People are being disconnected from their support systems, they aren’t going to their AA meetings, they are missing their counseling sessions,” Steve Schuh, the command center’s executive director, said.

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Kabir Singh with Amatus Recovery Center said the pandemic is fueling peoples’ addictions, which he said is concerning.

“Isolation and being stuck with oneself or perhaps in households where things unconducive to recovery are going on, strange familiar relationships, things of that nature, lack of employment, loss of housing, it’s all creating a great spike,” Singh said.

According to the report, fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, accounts for most of the deaths, highlighting an 11.9% increase.

Experts are worried that as the pandemic continues, the numbers will keep rising.

“We are very concerned that these kinds of factors that are contributing to substance abuse and therefore more fatalities are going to be with us as long as the pandemic is with us,” Schuh said.

Support is vital in the recovery process, and state officials said they’re working to make sure COVID-19 won’t undo the progress the state has made over the past decade.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Kelsey Kushner

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