Fatal Drug Overdoses Grew 7% in 2019 in Maine, New Report Shows

The opioid epidemic continues to be a major health care challenge for the state

This Sept. 18, 2019, file photo, shows tablets of the opioid painkiller Oxycodone delivered on medical prescription in Washington, D.C.
Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The number of fatal drug overdoses grew 7% last year in Maine, underscoring that the opioid epidemic continues to be a major health care challenge in the state, officials said Friday.

The 380 deaths remained below the peak of 417 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the analysis by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

“It is important as Maine, appropriately, focuses its energy on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, that we also maintain and increase our efforts to fight the opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Aaron Frey. “The data in this report confirms how significant this crisis remains.”

The report found an increase in deaths caused by non-pharmaceutical opioids, primarily fentanyl and its analogs, as well as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Out of 380 deaths, 84% involved at least one opioid, almost always in combination with other drugs or alcohol, the report said.

Gordon Smith, director of the state’s opioid response, said the data reinforces the fact that substance use disorder is a “relentless disease.”

“There is no quick or easy cure. Instead, it requires enduring treatment and sustained support —which my administration will continue to provide,” said Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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