BALTIMORE (WMAR) - The number of deadly overdoses are on the rise in Maryland, and state health officials say heroin is to blame.
A new report from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reveals the number of heroin-related deaths increased from 245 in 2011 to 378 in 2012. The numbers total a 54 percent increase.
As a result in the spike of heroin-related overdose deaths, the total number of deadly drug and alcohol related deaths increased 15 percent.
"We are taking action to address this serious public health concern," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH.
DHMH issued an alert last fall on the heroin overdose rise. Local counties were asked to develop, with assistance from the state, an overdose response plan.
A majority of the local prevention plans have been posted on the state health department's website .
The report released on Wednesday found that the overall increase in the number of drug and alcohol overdose deaths were among people over the age of 55.
Central and Southern Maryland saw an overall 20 percent increase. Baltimore City and Prince George's County overdose deaths increased by 30 percent.
Numbers on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland remained stable between 2011 and 2012.
Governor Martin O'Malley plans to reduce the number of drug and alcohol deaths to 20 percent by 2015.