BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim the lives of thousands of people, new data shows a dramatic jump in drug and alcohol-related deaths across the state.
It's a continuing crisis in the State of Maryland. The Opioid Operational Command Center and the Maryland Department of Health released a new report showing an alarming increase in drug and alcohol-related deaths.
Officials are blaming the spike in numbers on the pandemic.
"People are being disconnected from their support systems, they aren't going to their AA meetings, they are missing their counseling sessions," Steve Schuh, Executive Director of the Opioid Operational Command Center, said.
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The report said, during the first half of 2020, between January and June, there were 1,326 fatalities related to drugs and alcohol- a 9.1 percent increase compared to the same time last year, with opioids responsible for nearly 90 percent of them.
Kabir Singh, with Amatus Recovery Center, said the pandemic is fueling people's addictions.
"Isolation and being stuck with one's self or in households where things are unconducive to recovery are going on," Singh said. "Strange familiar relationships, things of that nature, lack of employment, loss of housing it's all creating a great spike."
The report found fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, accounts for most of the deaths, highlighting an 11.9 percent increase.
Experts said they're worried that, as the pandemic continues, the numbers will keep rising.
"We are very concerned that these kinds of factors that are contributing to substance abuse and therefore more fatalities are going to be with us as long as the pandemic is with us," Schuh said.
Experts said support is vital in the recovery process, and state officials said they're working to make sure COVID won't undo progress they've made over the last decade.
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