Maryland health officials warn of potent and deadly drug combination

Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports an increase in the number of deaths linked to a potent and deadly batch of heroin that is tainted with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, state health officials announced.

According to OCME data, between September 2013 and today, at least 37 Maryland deaths were caused by the lethal drug combination.  The fentanyl/heroin deaths represent approximately 12 percent of 318 overdose deaths during the same time period. This represents the preliminary total of overdose deaths for the period between September 2013 and January 2014.

“DHMH is reaching out to local behavioral health providers to ensure that they are fully informed about this dangerous and deadly trend,” said Dr. Gayle Jordan Randolph, Deputy Secretary for DHMH Behavioral Health Services. “We will support the local authorities as they adapt their overdose prevention plans in response to this deadly trend.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is estimated to be 80 times more powerful than morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin.  The presence of fentanyl dramatically increases the risk of an overdose death.

“Deaths due to the deadly heroin mixture appear to be widespread in Maryland and not localized to any specific area,” says Dr. David Fowler, Chief Medical Examiner for the State. “We have also seen overdose deaths due to fentanyl mixed with cocaine.”

Fentanyl-related deaths have been reported from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, and throughout Central Maryland.

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