opioid addiction

The number of overdose deaths in 2017 increased more in Maine than in almost any other U.S. state, and more than in any other state in New England.

Maine had among the highest annual rate of increases in the number of U.S. mothers who had opioid use disorder at the time of labor and delivery during a recent 15-year period.

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has filed suit against the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections and the acting Aroostook County Sheriff for denying medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to a prisoner with opioid use disorder.

The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of Zachary Smith of Caribou, who has been in recovery for more than five years.

Alexandria Santa Barbara is a 39-year-old mother of three from a working-class suburb of Philadelphia.

The addiction story for Santa Barbara, who goes by the name Alexis, follows a familiar course: She had been prescribed Percocet years ago to treat back pain. When the drug became unavailable, she turned to heroin. And she became hooked — not long after getting laid off from her job at a local deli.

Across the street from her, her neighbor, identified just as "J.M." in court papers, was also in the grip of an opioid addiction.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Senator Susan Collins used a committee hearing Wednesday to highlight one aspect of the opioid epidemic that she thinks deserves more attention: addiction in older adults.

Maine Public

As opioid addiction continues to be a widespread problem in Maine and throughout the country, it may be easy to forget that behind statistics and political debates there are real people coping with recovery, addiction and the pain these things can cause.

The number of opioid prescriptions being written by doctors in Maine declined by 32 percent between 2013 and 2017.

In 2017, opioid prescriptions numbers fell by 13.3 percent – the fifth biggest decline in the country.

The numbers released by the American Medical Association come from health data company IQVIA .

"Fewer prescriptions will mean fewer overdose deaths,” says Dr. Noah Nesin, vice president of Medical Affairs with Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor.

AUGUSTA, Maine - At most 50 homeless opioid users could get access to treatment and housing under a Democrat's bill.
 
Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine's bill would create a pilot project aiming to provide vulnerable opioid users with access to treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing.
 
His bill is set for a work session Friday. Lawmakers have tabled the bill previously.
 
Gattine's bill calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to start the project by September.
 

Toby Talbot / Associated Press File

The maker of OxyContin, one of the most common prescription painkillers involved in opioid overdose deaths, will no longer market the drug to doctors, an announcement that came Saturday as Purdue Pharma faces a lawsuit for deceptive marketing brought by cities and counties across the U.S., including several in Maine.

The days of marketing opioids to U.S. doctors are over, according to a statement issued by Purdue Pharma. The drug manufacturer has also cut its sales force by more than half.

A vial of Naloxone, which can be used to block the potentially fatal effects of an opioid overdose, is shown Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at an outpatient pharmacy at the University of Washington.
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo/File

Governor LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills have clashed on plenty of issues, but Mills says the governor’s critics misunderstand how the rulemaking process works and who has the final say.

Several lawmakers and the Maine Democratic party are blaming Gov. LePage for failing to implement a state law to allow the dispensing of naloxone, a drug that counters opioids in a person’s system, without a prescription. But according to Maine’s attorney general that criticism is misdirected.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to establish a pilot program to help 50 of Maine’s homeless residents get stable housing and treatment for opioid addiction. A bill presented to the Health and Human Services Committee today drew dozens of supporters during a public hearing. No one opposed the bill, but at least one lawmaker questioned whether it’s the best use of resources to tackle the problem.

Fifty of Maine's most vulnerable residents who are addicted to opioids would get access to treatment under a bill that the Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee is considering Wednesday.

Dr. Renee Fay-Leblanc, chief medical officer of Greater Portland Health, says the bill establishes a pilot project that would also provide stable housing.

"This bill will allow patients to get to a place where they can be successful in traditional substance use programs, and it will save lives," Fay-Leblanc says.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public/file

It has been almost a year since a state task force finalized recommendations to address Maine’s opioid crisis.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it will spend $2.4 million on an initiative that will provide additional access to medication-assisted addiction treatment.

The announcement surprised treatment advocates, who have criticized the LePage administration for making it harder to access methadone and Suboxone amid an opioid crisis largely responsible for more than 270 overdose deaths last year.

Gov. Paul LePage continued his criticism of the state’s methadone clinics on Tuesday, vowing to cut state funding from clinics that don’t provide counseling to addicts.

Maine’s 10 methadone clinics are regulated by half a dozen state and federal agencies. Counseling is a requirement to dispense a drug that’s designed to help opioid addiction, but the governor believes only one or two clinics are providing counseling. The rest, he said, are merely distributing the drug.

He told Bangor radio station WVOM that those clinics will lose state funding next year if he has his way.

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