The city and region have struggled for decades with high rates of heroin addiction, but fatalities are on the rise here, as elsewhere in the U.S., as purer forms of the drug, or formulations that include another potent opioid, fentanyl, become more widely available. As a result, states are turning to naloxone, also known by its brand name, Narcan, which reverses overdoses of heroin and other opioids such as oxycodone, but not of cocaine and other drugs. In 2012, then-federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske called for broadening naloxone’s availability, saying that for some addicts it could be “the difference between life and death.”
Maryland health officials, desperate to stem an 88 percent rise in heroin overdose deaths from 2011 to 2013, have launched an initiative to put the overdose-reversing drug naloxone into the hands of addicts, their families, police and other nonmedical personnel, the Baltimore Sun reports. Of the 848 people in Maryland who died of drug or alcohol intoxication last year, 464 overdosed on heroin. The grim trend continues this year: In the first three months, 148 of the 252 who died had used heroin.