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Attorney General Mills Announces 2013 Drug Death Statistics – Heroin Continues to Claim More Lives
June 2, 2014
(AUGUSTA) Attorney General Janet Mills and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed today that 176 drug induced deaths occurred in Maine in 2013, an increase of 13 deaths over 2012. 105 of these deaths were attributable to pharmaceutical opioids and 34 were attributable to heroin. The number of drug induced deaths has been consistently high over the last 13 years and exceeds the number of deaths due to crashes on Maine’s highways.
These statistics include all deaths in which one or more drugs are mentioned on the death certificate as a cause of death or as a significant contributing factor. Most of these deaths reportedly are accidental overdoses.
“Maine medical and law enforcement communities have have made a concerted effort to reduce access to opioids in Maine,” said Attorney General Mills. “However, the statistics show there is still a major addiction problem in our state. Law enforcement, prosecutors, the medical community and educators must work in concert to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place.”
The Attorney General remarked on the astonishing increase in deaths due to heroin use. Heroin use is on the rise partly because of regulations restricting prescriptions for oxycodone and regulations requiring tamper-resistant packaging of prescription opioids. In 2012, 28 people in Maine died as a result of heroin overdose, compared to just seven in 2011. That number continued to climb to 34 deaths in 2013.
“My Office just obtained convictions in a triple homicide case in which three young Mainers were killed in a drug deal gone bad,” said Attorney General Mills. “Criminals are targeting our state to sell drugs, bringing a shocking level of violence with them. My Office is committed to prosecuting these cases, but we also need to focus on reducing the demand for these dangerous drugs.”
The problem of drug addiction and drug trafficking is a public health crisis requiring treatment and support, preventative services and a greater focus on education and creative criminal justice approaches such as Drug Court and Co-Occurring Disorder Courts.
Mills noted that The Maine Drug Taskforce closed approximately 830 drug cases in 2013. In 2013 the proportion of cases involving prescription drugs fell from 50.8% of the total in 2012 to 43.8% of the total, while the proportion of cases involving heroin (a potential substitute for prescription painkillers) rose sharply from 7.7% of the total in 2012 to 20.4% of the total in 2013. In 2013, cocaine cases (both powder and crack combined) represented approximately 18% of the total.
In Maine the Attorney General Office’s Maine Drug Taskforce prosecutes most major drug crimes and works closely with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the United States Attorney’s Office to combat the importation of heroin and other dangerous drugs from other jurisdictions.
The drug death data is collected and analyzed each year by Dr. Marcella Sorg, Margaret Chase Smith Center, University of Maine.
[Attachment: PDF: Sorg Drug Death Data 2013]