378 lives lost to drug overdose in Maine last year

Published: Feb. 2, 2017 at 1:44 PM EST
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AUGUSTA – More than one person a day died of a drug overdose in Maine in 2016. According to a press release from the Maine Attorney General's Office, the influx of Fentanyl has contributed to a 39% increase in the total number of drug overdose deaths in Maine in 2016 as compared to 2015. In 2015 there were 272 deaths due to a drug overdose. That figure jumped to 378 deaths in 2016.

According to the Maine Attorney General's Office, Opioid drugs remain the leading factor in deaths, with 313 deaths due to an opioid (pharmaceutical or non-pharmaceutical). Fentanyl caused 195 deaths, a 127% increase over last year, and heroin caused 123 deaths in 2016, which was a 15% increase over 2015.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 times more potent than heroin. Just a few salt-sized grains of Fentanyl could prove deadly. Fentanyl has been used as a pharmaceutical painkiller, usually in the form of a transdermal patch, but, according to the Maine Attorney General's Office, the powdered version of the drug that is now prevalent is illicitly produced in clandestine labs and sold to users as heroin. The person using the drug who may have a tolerance for an amount of other opioids can easily be overcome by fentanyl.

“We are losing more than one person each day to a drug overdose,” said Attorney General Janet Mills. “We need to reach out to friends and neighbors and let them know that whatever is wrong in their lives, no drug is going to solve their problems, not for one second. They are only hurting themselves, their friends, family and community. We have to remove the stigma from addiction so that people will get help before it is too late and we have to provide more pathways to recovery.”

Attorney General Mills expressed her thanks to the men and women of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and to Marcella Sorg, PhD, of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine for their work in compiling this data.

Link to Sorg Preliminary 2016 Overdose Memo: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=729779&an=1

Link to past annual Data: http://www.maine.gov/ag/news/article.shtml?id=671344