The Centers for Disease Control announced Thursday that more than 63,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, with just over 2,000 in Maryland. That works out to a rate of 33.2 deaths per 100,000 Marylanders.
Around two-thirds of those deaths were tied to opioids. Dr. Eric Weintraub, who specializes in addiction psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center and is the division head of alcohol and drug abuse at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says he worries the opioid crisis is going to get worse before it gets better.
"The last five years, we've seen a real significant increase in the severity of the problem," Weintraub told Robert Lang.
Maryland's rate of opioid deaths is higher than the national rate--19.8 per 100,000--but a number of states are in even worse shape. To the west in West Virginia, 52 residents per 100,000 died of a drug overdose in 2016. In Pennsylvania, there were 37.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.
Death rates were much higher for men than women. The death rate is highest among those aged 25-54.
Weintraub said the opioid epidemic has spread beyond cities into suburbs and rural areas, and the lethality is driven in large part by fentanyl.
"It's about 50 times more potent than heroin and it's being mixed into the drugs that people are using. And many times, they don't even know what they're using," Weintraub said.
From January through June of this year, Maryland recorded 1,172 overdose-related deaths. Of those, 799 were tied to fentanyl alone. In the same period in 2016, 969 Marylanders died of an overdose.
Weintraub said Maryland is more proactive than other states, but that there's much more work to be done, including educating young people about the risks associated with opioids and working with physicians to decrease over-prescription