Drug overdoses continue to claim nearly one life a day in Maine

September 21, 2018

AUGUSTA - In the wake of figures released by her office and the Chief Medical Examiner, Attorney General Janet T. Mills says the latest drug overdose fatalities indicate no relief from the stranglehold of Maine's opioid crisis. According to the report, during the first and second quarters of 2018, fentanyl continued to be the number one driver of drug fatalities in Maine.

"One of the most heart wrenching parts of my job is witnessing firsthand the devastating toll the opioid epidemic is having on the families and communities in Maine," said Attorney General Mills. "With nearly a person a day dying from the perils of addiction, we need a stronger sense of urgency to take significant action about this public health crisis."

In January, Attorney General Mills published her 10 point plan to turn around the devastation of the opioid epidemic. Solutions include targeting areas with a high number of overdoses and providing them with additional medical and economic resources, expanding the availability of naloxone, reining in prescribing practices, establishing a 24-hour opioid emergency line, lift the state's two-year limit on methadone treatment and raise its Medicaid reimbursement rates, expand drug courts, set up a community treatment system similar to Vermont's "hub and spokes" model, make recovery coaches available at every emergency room and clinic, expand the number of detox slots, residential recovery beds, and peer recovery centers, and provide prevention programs in our schools and communities.

The report compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, showed that while the total of 180 drug fatalities during the first and second quarter of 2018 was slightly fewer than the 185 deaths reported last year during the same period, 90 percent of those deaths were attributed to accidental overdoses. Consistent with last year's numbers, heroin caused 21% 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.

Mills added, "This crisis requires each of us to be in solution mode. Going back to 2016, our office in coordination with police departments across the state started distributing naloxone. To date it has saved 530 lives. But as long as there are people dying, we have more work to do. Saving lives is a first step. Turning those lives around with medication assisted treatment, housing and job training, and preventing addiction in the first place are the next major steps."

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


Supporting documents

Maine's Drug Deaths Report: January - June, 2018