Opioid overdose deaths are up across the state by 66 percent, according to a report. That includes a big increase in people age 55 and over. Five times as many older Marylanders suffered deadly overdoses last year, compared to 2010.
Craig Lippens, a treatment specialist with the Bergand Group, says he's not surprised.
"Doctors don't always suspect that the elderly are pill shopping or doctor hopping," he said.
According to Lippens, many older abusers start on painkillers before turning to street drugs. He says lately, they've been skipping heroin and moving on to Fentanyl, a more potent opioid.
"It's extremely cheap," Lippens says. "Plus, it can be made in a lab as opposed to the opiates that you would have in making heroin."
Lippens also says that overdoses are more likely to be deadly in users age 55 and over, who have a better chance of being in poorer health.
"The older opiate deaths are usually due to the decreased tolerance and increased sensitivity, which happens as their bodies change over time," he said.
Fentanyl use was up across the board last year. It now nearly matches heroin in overdose deaths in the state.