For Immediate Release: Drug overdoses continue to claim Maine lives at an alarming rate

January 8, 2019

AUGUSTA - In the wake of figures released by his office and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Attorney General Aaron M. Frey says the latest drug overdose fatalities indicate that Maine's opioid crisis continues to claim lives at a distressing rate, even though the overall number of deaths has decreased slightly compared with 2017. According to the report, during the first three quarters of 2018, fentanyl continued to be the number one driver of drug fatalities in Maine.

"Though we obviously welcome the slight reduction, the fact remains that the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis which is tearing apart Maine families and communities," said Attorney General Frey. "Our office recognizes the urgency of this crisis, and I am committed to working in a collaborative manner with Governor Mills, the legislature, and all relevant agencies and community leaders to turn this crisis around by finding and implementing real solutions."

The report compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, showed that while the total of 282 drug fatalities during the first three quarters of 2018 was slightly fewer than the 297 deaths reported in 2017 during the same period, at least 89 percent of those deaths were attributed to accidental overdoses. Consistent with 2017's numbers, heroin caused 19% of the 2018 deaths to date. However, cocaine or crack was on the rise, causing 25% of total deaths, continuing to increase from 16% in 2016 and 22% in 2017.

Additionally, most (228, 81%) drug deaths were caused by two or more drugs in combination. On average, the cause of death involved three drugs. 82% of overdoses were caused by at least one opioid. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl and/or its analogs caused 61% of deaths either alone or in combination with other drugs. Compared to 2017 as a whole, deaths due to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl are slightly more likely to include other drugs, but less likely to include pharmaceutical opioids.

Additionally, there has been an increase in cocaine and methamphetamine deaths, with cocaine increasingly being mixed with fentanyl and heroin.

To read more about Dr. Sorg's findings, her report is attached.


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