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Multiple opioid overdose incidents in Carroll County concerns health department

The Carroll County Health Department alerted the community this week about multiple suspected opioid overdose incidents in the county.

“The opioid overdose rates have continued to rise over the past several years and we are accounting this to the drug fentanyl finding its way into the state and then the county,” said Cathy Baker, local behavioral health authority at the Carroll County Health Department.

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Overdose spikes are often due to fentanyl and other similar chemicals which may be added to cocaine or heroin, according to a news release from the health department.

In November, the total number of overdoses in Carroll County was 24, a decrease of 14.3% from the previous month. There were 28 overdoses reported in October. One year ago, in November 2020, there were 38, according to the Carroll County Health Department.

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Counterfeit anxiety and pain pills, such as oxycodone, Percocet or Xanax may also be laced with fentanyl, which is very potent and increases the risk of overdose and death, according to the health department.

From April 2020 to April 2021, overdose deaths rose 21% in Maryland, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by more than 28% nationwide. More than 100,000 people died due to overdoses in that time period, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, a record number that is higher than the number of people who died of gunshots and car crashes combined.

The CDC estimates that more than 2,800 Marylanders are included in the national tally, acknowledging that the numbers may be underreported due to incomplete data. That’s up from close to 2,300 overdose deaths the year prior.

Andy Owen, a Maryland Department of Health spokesman, said the rate of fatal overdoses has stabilized in the state since 2020, and the rate of increase remains significantly lower than the national average. Maryland has a comprehensive strategy in place to respond to the crisis, he said, which includes state-sponsored town halls, targeted naloxone distribution, data analysis, peer support programs and school prevention initiatives.

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But the spike in deaths may be attributed to increased isolation, financial hardship, and sickness and deaths of loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic, said Adrienne Breidenstine, vice president of policy and communications for Behavioral Health System Baltimore, which oversees behavioral health services for the city. As the public health crisis heads into its second winter, officials are worried the opioid epidemic could intensify.

Montressa Tripps, of Bmore POWER — a branch of Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore that provides the lifesaving overdose reversal medicine naloxone, as well as fentanyl testing strips, safe-use kits, information and resources — said the group is seeing more “tainted prescription drugs” at the community level.

“Fentanyl is being added to everything, from alcohol to heroin,” Tripps said in a statement. “People do not understand how much harm fentanyl does to the body and that it can kill quickly.”

Signs of an opioid overdose include blue or gray fingertips and lips, choking or gurgling sounds, clammy or pale skin, a limp body, not waking up or not responding to voice or touch, a slow heartbeat or no heartbeat, slow, shallow breathing or not breathing or small, constricted “pinpoint pupils.”

If someone is suspected of overdosing, the health department advises calling 9-1-1 immediately, administering naloxone, if available, and staying with the person until medical help arrives.

Carroll residents can call the Carroll County Health Department Bureau of Prevention Wellness and Recovery at 410-876-4449 or visit howtoadministernaloxone.maryland.gov to learn more about naloxone or visit cchd.maryland.gov to support those with mental health and substance abuse issues.

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