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'Unusually high’ spike as overdoses in Carroll County increase by more than 50% over previous month

The number of drug overdoses in Carroll County increased by 54.5% in one month, while year-to-date statistics still show a slight decrease compared to 2019.

From January through September, there have been 312 overdoses reported, according to data provided by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, released Monday. This represents a 3.4% decrease compared to the 323 overdoses through the same period in 2019.

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Overdoses increased considerably for September when compared to August. Fifty-one overdoses, representing a 54.5% increase, were reported in September, five of them fatal. In August there were 33 overdoses, three of which were fatal. September 2020 had 16% more overdoses compared to September 2019, when 44 overdoses were recorded.

The Carroll County Health Department suspects the increase is related to street drugs, according to Ed Singer, county health officer.

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“We have seen an unusually high number of spikes in cases this past month that seem to be related to more deadly formulations of street drugs,” Singer wrote in an email Monday.

Overdose deaths are down 8.1% year over year. Carroll has seen 34 fatalities through September, compared to 37 at the same point last year.

Nineteen of the September overdoses were due to heroin, 13 were due to prescription medication, eight were unknown drug/method, three were “other” controlled dangerous substances, two were alcohol abuse and one was over-the-counter medications. Five cases have results pending, data shows.

The five fatalities recorded in September were due to some other substance/unknown. Four of them were considered accidental overdoses, while one was undetermined.

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Singer said the health department routinely issues alerts to make the public aware of any deadly batches of drugs circulating the area. Other than not taking drugs, people can reduce their risk by not using drugs alone, having the overdose-reversal drug naloxone (also known as Narcan) on hand or being more cautious about the quantity of drugs they use, according to Singer. Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police each administered naloxone once last month, according to Sheriff’s Office data.

“Harm reduction measures always sound somewhat negative when you talk about them, but as long as we can keep people from dying, we still have the opportunity to help them get into long-term recovery so that they can become the productive members of our society that they have the potential to be,” Singer wrote.

Peer support facilitators, who use their own recovery experiences to help others commit to treatment, have been inhibited by the pandemic. Singer said COVID-19 restrictions limit their ability to assist people in person, but the health department is gradually starting to reopen these services.

Overdoses occurred throughout the county last month. The highest percentage, 33%, or 17 overdoses, happened in Westminster, data shows. Out of the total overdoses in September 2020, 29%, or 15 victims, were between the ages of 25 and 34.

Anyone with behavioral health concerns, such as substance abuse, can call the Carroll County Health Department at 410-876-4449.

Those who call 911 to help a person who has overdosed are protected from prosecution for some drug and alcohol crimes under the Maryland Good Samaritan Law. More information is available at www.itsneverworthit.com. If you suspect someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately, the health department advises.

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