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Carroll County overdoses, fatalities up significantly in 2021

Fatal overdoses and total overdoses in Carroll County rose sharply over the first two months of 2021, according to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office statistics.

Six overdose deaths were reported in February after nine were reported in January, the second deadliest month in five years. Those 15 deaths represent a 114.3% increase over the first two months of 2020, when seven people died. In the 13 months leading up to January, as many as six cases had been reported just once.

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With data in from one-sixth of the year, Carroll has already suffered one-third as many overdose deaths as the 45 in 2020.

Also reported in February were 47 total overdoses, nearly doubling the 25 from last February. Only one month in all of 2020 exceeded 47 overdoses. And 47 was just a modest increase over the 42 seen in January. The 89 overdoses for January and February shows a 50.8% increase over the same two months from 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One reason for the increase in overdoses in February was a dramatic increase in suicide attempts. Twelve of the overdoses were ruled to be suicide attempts, up from eight in January and markedly up from just two last February. None of the 12 was successful. Thirty of the 47 February overdoses have been ruled accidental and five are unknown.

Of the 15 fatal overdoses in 2021, six have been ruled accidental while nine remain under investigation. January’s nine overdose deaths were the most in a month since March 2018, the deadliest year of the opioid epidemic in Carroll.

In 2020, 426 overdoses were reported by the Sheriff’s Office, for an average of 35.5 per month. Carroll is averaging 44.5 per month so far in 2021. It’s early in the year, but Carroll is on pace for 534 overdoses.

Of the 47 February overdoses, the drug/method was unknown in 11 of them and pending the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s report in the six fatalities, per Sheriff’s Office data. Heroin and fentanyl together were found in nine of the overdoses, followed by prescription medications in six, heroin alone in four, alcohol in four, over-the-counter medications in three, other opiates in two and other controlled dangerous substances in two.

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The report details demographics in terms of age and location.

Of the 89 overdoses through two months of 2021, 31% of the victims have been 25-34 years old, 21% 45-54, 18% 35-44, 16% 24-under and 13% 55-over. Over the same time frame, 33 were in Westminster’s law enforcement area, eight in Taneytown, five in Hampstead, three in Mount Airy and one in Sykesville, as well as two within the town limits of New Windsor. Thirty-three were in areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Office (one-third of those in the Westminster patrol area) and six in Maryland State Police jurisdiction.

Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, which can reverse opioid overdoses, was used in 42 of the 89 overdoses this year. Eighty-three of the victims were listed as Carroll County residents.

Overdoses declined by 1.8% in 2020 vs. 2019. The 2020 statistics built on the 2019 data, which saw a steep decline after several years of significant increases in overdoses and fatal overdoses in Carroll County. There were 513 overdoses and 71 overdose deaths in 2018. In two years time, those numbers decreased by 17% and 37% respectively. The 45 fatalities in 2020 were the fewest attributed to overdoses since 2015.

However, overdoses rose from 188 over the first half of 2020 to 238 over the second half of the year and have continued to rise since. And 15 fatalities in two months has Carroll on pace to surpass all previous years of the opioid epidemic.

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