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STATE OFFICIALS PRESENT DRUG DEATH DATA ANALYSIS
December 27, 2002
Available online at: www.maine.gov/ag/pr/drugreport.pdf
DECEMBER 27, 2002
STEVEN ROWE, ATTORNEY GENERAL
MARGARET GREENWALD, M.D., CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER
KIMBERLY JOHNSON, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Attorney General Steven Rowe, Chief Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald, and Office of Substance Abuse Director Kimberly Johnson today presented a landmark report entitled Maine Drug Death Mortality Patterns: 1997-2002. The report, authored by Dr. Marcella H. Sorg of the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy at the University of Maine and Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald, measures for the first time the nature and extent of Maine's epidemic of deaths related to drugs.
Key findings of the report are:
* Four-fold increase in drug deaths in Maine over last five years;
* Increase due mainly to accidental overdoses;
* Vast majority of deaths attributable to prescription drugs; and
* Drug deaths approximately evenly distributed across state on a population basis.
Attorney General Rowe stated, "Prescription and illicit drug abuse is killing Mainers at an alarming rate. This report defines the complexity of the problem and provides a foundation upon which to build future drug abuse policy."
Report author Dr. Marcella Sorg said, "It is essential that public policy be based on accurate information, particularly for such an urgent and complex topic. On behalf of the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy and the University of Maine, I am pleased to present this study to Maine policymakers for their consideration."
Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald initiated the study because she became disturbed by the dramatic annual increases in drug overdoses. All drug deaths become medical examiner cases. Noting that the average age of drug death victims is 40 and that nearly 80% of them have a high school education or greater, Dr. Greenwald said, "Having to deal with the tragedy of these needless deaths is one of the most unfortunate aspects of my job. It is my hope that by working together, we can reduce the rapid growth of this problem."
Office of Substance Abuse Director Kimberly Johnson said that the report illustrates the dire need for early intervention by health professionals. "One of the many lessons of these data is that doctors and pharmacists need access to better information about their patients, about who is getting prescriptions from whom and for what. Maine needs electronic prescription monitoring. No health professional wants to be an unwitting enabler of addiction."
Attorney General Rowe praised the Legislature for passing new laws last year requiring doctors to use tamper-proof prescription pads for narcotics and tightening the criminal code to better address illegal narcotic diversion and importation. He expressed confidence that much more would be done in the coming months. "Our Legislature has made great strides in substance abuse prevention and treatment in the last few years, but there is much more to do. The data in this report will help shape future solutions to this serious problem."
Drs. Sorg and Greenwald analyzed medical examination and toxicological testing files for Maine drug deaths dating from January of 1997 through the first six months of 2002. The Maine Justice Assistance Council and the Office of Substance Abuse provided funding for the report. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, the Attorney General's Office, and the University of Maine provided direct project support.