On Pills and Needles: Maryland's opioid crisis | WYPR

On Pills and Needles: Maryland's opioid crisis

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999 nationally.  In Maryland, a rapidly increasing overdose rate caused Governor Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency in 2015 and again in March 2017.  In the series On Pills and Needles: Maryland’s Opioid Epidemic, WYPR's Rachel Baye examines how the state handles the crisis and what may lie ahead.

The number of people in Maryland who died after taking the narcotic Fentanyl increased by more than 70 percent in the first half of 2017, compared with the first half of last year, according to preliminary data the state Department of Health released Tuesday. 

Deaths related to heroin and prescription opioids were relatively flat across the state, the data show.

Rachel Baye

Two Maryland doctors have been charged with illegally selling prescriptions for opioid painkillers at so-called “pill mills.” State Attorney General Brian Frosh announced the indictments Thursday together with local and federal officials following an investigation spanning multiple agencies and jurisdictions.

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Odell Jones describes himself as a “working addict.” For decades, he maintained a career in social work and politics, as well as a family — four children and a wife — while using and selling heroin.

”An individual would not know that I was a drug user, or a drug dealer, for that matter, unless I were to tell you,” he said.

Rachel Baye

The Baltimore City Health Department is getting a new $200,000 grant from the Open Society Institute – Baltimore to aid in the fight against opioid overdoses, city Health Commissioner Leana Wen announced Monday. The money is slated to pay for real-time alerts about overdose spikes and new community engagement efforts.

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Last year, 157 people in Maryland died from overdoses of Oxycodone, a prescription narcotic.

Rachel Baye

Sixty-four-year old Johnnie Davis has been treating his heroin addiction at the Bon Secours New Hope Treatment Center in West Baltimore for nearly 20 years.

“When I came here, I didn’t have no insurance,” he said. “And if I wasn’t here, I could imagine where my life would have turned because I was known for drugs — selling drugs.”