Heroin overdose deaths in Frederick County reached an all-time high in 2013 at 21 deaths, the highest single-year total since 2007, according to a state report.
From 2012 to 2013 alone, heroin-related deaths spiked from 10 to 21, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's 2013 Report of Drug and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland.
“It's never going away,” Cpl. Vincent Brown, the assistant supervisor of Frederick Police Department's Drug Enforcement Unit, said at a June 17 Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting. “But we're trying to curtail it.”
Brown said he first began to notice more heroin users in Frederick County in October 2013.
“Prior to that, we saw heroin maybe once a month,” he said at the meeting. “Then it was once a week, and then it turned into a daily occurrence.”
Frederick County saw its highest number of alcohol and drug overdose deaths since 2007 in 2013 at 37 reported deaths, according to the report. The county also reported the sixth-highest number of alcohol- and drug-related deaths among Maryland counties, with Baltimore city and Baltimore County leading at 246 and 144 deaths, respectively.
“It's not just a drug issue we're facing, but overdose and deaths we're facing,” Brown said at the meeting.
Maryland also saw the largest number of alcohol and drug overdose deaths since 2007 with 858 reported deaths in 2013, according to the report.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene releases annual reports on alcohol- and drug-related deaths across the state, categorizing data by county, age, ethnicity and gender. The largest percentage of people who died from alcohol and drugs in the entire state were between the ages 45 and 54, according to the report.
However, the largest percentage of people who died from a heroin overdose in 2012 and 2013 fell into the age groups 25-34 and 45-54.
“Heroin is unique,” Brown said. “It doesn't have an age group, class, or economic group it's specific to.”
Gov. Martin O'Malley founded the Overdose Prevention Council on Thursday to combat the rising number of overdoses in Maryland, hoping to reduce overdose deaths by 20 percent by 2015, according to a news release.
“This campaign is aimed at family, friends and community members,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the secretary of health and mental hygiene, said in a news release. “Being able to identify and quickly respond to an overdose by dialing 9-1-1 and administering naloxone, if trained, will save lives.”
Naloxone, a drug that can be injected or administered via nose, immediately negates the effects of an opioid drug such as heroin. At the June 17 meeting, Frederick Police Chief Thomas Ledwell said it was a "de-high" for heroin users.
The department is training a certain number of officers to carry naloxone, Ledwell said.
Frederick County also had the fifth-highest number of prescription opioid-related overdose deaths in Maryland in 2013, tying with Prince George's and Harford counties at 14.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has launched a public education campaign to raise statewide awareness of opioid overdoses through in-person training, distribution of overdose tool kits and educating residents at community meetings, according to the news release.
Follow Paige Jones on Twitter: @paigeleejones.