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Attorney General Janet Mills Releases Expanded 2016 Drug Death Report
April 11, 2017
AUGUSTA – An analysis of 2016 drug deaths released today provides greater detail surrounding the opioid epidemic in Maine. The expanded Maine Drug Death Report for 2016 conducted by Marcella Sorg, PhD for the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner shows that there was a nearly 40% increase in deaths due to a drug overdose from 2015. The overwhelming majority of these deaths, 84%, were caused alone or in combination with an opioid.
“The number of deaths caused by heroin and fentanyl is unprecedented,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “Yet the danger of prescription opioids remains unabated. It is time to fully fund treatment services for those affected by this deadly disorder and to fully engage in prevention and education efforts. Using these drugs, alone or in combination, is playing with fire.” Mills called for physicians across the state to limit their opiate prescribing practices and for more doctors to become suboxone prescribers.
The summary shows how the numbers of drug deaths are expanding across the state. Only 5 counties had more than 10 deaths in 2015 and in 2016 that number increased to 10 counties. It also shows that traditional service center cities are bearing a heavy load. While Portland has 5% of the state’s total population, 11% of the overdose deaths were recorded there in 2016. Bangor is home to just 2% of the total population, but it recorded 9% of the 2016 overdose deaths.
“This epidemic is not limited to one area or region of Maine,” said Attorney General Mills. “Our cities are being hit hard by this, but rural regions are not immune. It cannot be stressed enough that this epidemic is hitting all across Maine and is not confined to big city across the country,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “This is happening to your friends and family, and it is happening in your neighborhood.”
The analysis shows that while deaths due to pharmaceutical opioids have been eclipsed by fentanyl and heroin, the number of deaths from prescription painkillers increased last year to 123 – the highest level since 2010. An analysis conducted by Dr. Sorg of the cases in 2015 in which a pharmaceutical opioid was implicated as a cause of death observed that only 7 percent had a prescription for that drug at the time of their death.
Note: There have been minor changes to the preliminary death totals released on February 2, 2017, due to updated death certificate information. The revised total is 376.