Pandemic Contributes to Increase in Maine Drug Overdoses, AG Says

There were 127 deaths in Maine caused by drugs in the first quarter, a 23% increase over the fourth quarter of 2019

Gov. Janet Mills and Dr. Nirav Shah discussing coronavirus at a news conference at the State House on March 12, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

The number of drug overdoses is growing in Maine during the coronavirus pandemic, with a significant increase in the first quarter and preliminary data suggesting the the trend is continuing, the attorney general's office says.

The disturbing findings, released Friday, confirm that the opioid crisis "has intensified nationally in the midst of the global pandemic," Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a statement.

There were 127 deaths caused by drugs in the first quarter, a 23% increase over the fourth quarter of 2019, the report said. Preliminary estimates point to about 235 drug overdose deaths for the first half of the year.

The numbers track with national figures that are "attributed to the effects of the pandemic, including social isolation, economic difficulty, and reluctance to seek medical attention. Interruptions in drug supplies internationally have resulted in substitutions and combinations that may be contributing to additional vulnerabilities to overdose," the report said.

"Every number in this report is the life of a loved one lost. We grieve with the families, employers and communities diminished by this devastating public health crisis, a public health crisis now made worse by a pandemic that is limiting access to life-saving services and increasing isolation for people in recovery," said Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

People struggling with substance abuse disorder need to know "that even during the pandemic, help is still available," she said. "You are not alone."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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