Avoiding twice the loss: How the heroin epidemic is giving life to organ transplant recipients

ABC NEWS 2 | Mallory Sofastaii

BALTIMORE, Md. - Last year, there were a record number of organ transplants in the country, and in Maryland. Experts believe the increase is in part due to the growing heroin epidemic.

According to The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, in 2016, one in four organ donors in the area died from an overdose.

In 2015, that number was one in six, and nationally, it's one in 11. Recently, there was a conference where heads of organizations from places like The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland met to discuss trends across the country.

Charlie Alexander, the president and CEO of The LLF said they discussed the epidemic hitting some areas harder than others, and that current prevention efforts are not offering enough.

“Medical examiner's across the country are really discussing this at a pretty high level where if it's not an epidemic yet, they know that it's coming,” Alexander said.

While health and law enforcement agencies work to combat the epidemic, hospitals are performing a record number of organ transplants. There were more than 30,000 transplants across the country in 2016, and in Maryland, there were a record 188 organ donors from our area that saved the lives of 467 organ transplant recipients. Continue reading