WASHINGTON — The number of deaths caused by a pain medication 50 times stronger than heroin is growing fast in Maryland.
It’s called fentanyl. Drug dealers often mix it with other opioids without telling drug buyers, leading to overdoses.
According to preliminary figures from the state health department, Maryland counted 473 opioid-related overdose deaths in the first three months of this year, compared to 350 during the same time period last year.
The number of fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled statewide in the first quarter of 2017, up from 157 last year to 372.
In Frederick County, the number of deaths doubled from six to 12. In Montgomery County they tripled from five to 15, and Prince George’s County saw a nearly sevenfold increase from four to 27.
Last month, the state announced more than $22 million would be given toward fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic in the state. Most of that money comes from a federal grant.
The state has also made a number of changes in the way it combats the opioid epidemic.
It changed the way opioids can be prescribed to Medicaid recipients, is expanding substance abuse treatment options for those recipients, and is requiring those who prescribe opioids to register with the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.