Our state is number one, but in a disturbing way: Maryland’s hospitalization rate due to opioids is the highest in the U.S. New federal data demonstrates the depth and breadth of Maryland’s opioid problem. Ten years of statistics from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality show that tens of thousands of people in Maryland are either admitted to a hospital or visit the emergency room because of opioid overdoses, withdrawal symptoms, or related complications.
For 2014, the year with the most recently available federal numbers, there were 362 hospital admissions for every 100,000 residents in Maryland. This number is stunningly higher—over eight times higher—than Iowa’s rate of 44, and far above the national average of 225 for every 100,000 residents. Federal data also established that Maryland’s emergency room visit rate was 288 per 100,000 residents. The national average was around 178.
The opioid epidemic began in the early 2000s, with overdoses and deaths really hitting the charts around 2006 and 2007. At first, the problem was concentrated in white, middle-class and upper-class suburbs, but that is not the case now. Federal researchers were shocked to discover that the Baltimore area has an extremely heavy concentration of opioid-related emergency room visits. Anne Elixhauser, a senior research scientist at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, commented, “It’s a much bigger disparity than anywhere else.” In Baltimore, the rate of ER visits was 977 for every 100,000 residents—over five and a half times higher than the national average. Across the U.S. for all big-city regions, it was 177 per 100,000 people.
Speculation is that Baltimore has had a heroin “culture” for many years that did not fade when other drugs, such as cocaine, became popular. It is also believed that the recent sharp rise in fentanyl usage is contributing to the problems of overdoses and deaths. The chair of the emergency department at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Dr. Chirag Chaudhari, noted that, “It’s an epidemic, and it’s only increasing in numbers.”
The number of deaths from all drug and alcohol overdoses is not in the tens of thousands in our state, but they are still worrying. The year 2015 saw 1,259 deaths; and in the first nine months of 2016, the total number of fatalities climbed to 1,468—with the year not over.
During 2015, Maryland’s opioid prescription deaths added up to 351. Fentanyl fatalities equaled 340, and deaths from heroin—an opioid that comes from a poppy plant—were 748. (Because deaths can involve the ingestion of more than one substance, the numbers may not add up.)
Patients expect their healthcare providers, including their pharmacists, to use common sense when prescribing or dispensing the appropriate medication and accurate dosage to treat medical conditions. If you have experienced harm or injury from the overuse or overprescribing of opioids, the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler may be able to provide legal assistance.
A Skilled and Caring Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help You
An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to listen to the facts of your case, conduct a thorough investigation, and help you devise a legal strategy for obtaining compensation for your injuries. Due to the involvement of insurance companies and defendants who can afford a strong legal team, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with an attorney who has extensive experience when it comes to medical malpractice. Not every medical malpractice claim will hold up in court. However, the only way to determine this is through a thorough case review.