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Research: Fentanyl Tops List of Drugs Found in Baltimore Overdose Patients

By Maryland Today Staff

Fentanyl tops the list of drugs detected in overdose patients at two Baltimore hospital emergency departments, suggesting that hospitals and medical systems throughout the United States consider adding the potent synthetic opioid to their routine drug testing panels, new University of Maryland research has found.

The study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland, College Park is based on de-identified urinalysis results and other data collected through the new Maryland Emergency Department Drug Surveillance (EDDS) system, launched to support improved patient outcomes. Results appear in the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UMSOM researchers collaborated with CESAR investigators to analyze drugs identified in urine samples taken at University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown and Downtown campuses from January 2016 through December 2019. Fentanyl testing was incorporated for all patients undergoing urine screens as a routine test in January 2019.

That year, quarterly accounting showed fentanyl was detected in up to 87% of specimens that were tested for the substance; 61% of the fentanyl-positive specimens contained other drugs, while 13% contained fentanyl only.

“The EDDS system represents an important partnership between University of Maryland researchers and hospitals,” said Eric D. Wish, director of CESAR and of the Maryland EDDS. “It can enable faster, more accurate identification of changing trends in substance use and, ultimately, aims to improve patient care.”

Zachary D.W. Dezman, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at UMSOM and the study’s lead author, said the regular fentanyl testing and EDDS collaboration address a gap in patient care, allowing medical care providers to better inform patients of the risks associated with continued use, assist with buprenorphine induction in the emergency department, and help connect patients to substance use treatment programs.

Find the full news release here.

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