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Drug Overdoses Were Up 11 Percent Last Year

AP Photo
Syringe and capped needle containing fentanyl

Drug overdose deaths in Maine increased by 11 percent last year, with a total of 418 deaths, according to data released Thursday by the attorney general’s office.

“Forty-two more people died last year than the year before,” says Attorney General Janet Mills. “You know, every death is preventable. Every one of those deaths is more than a statistic.”

Mills says the higher number is driven by an increase in fentanyl-related deaths. Traffickers often lace heroin with the synthetic opioid because it's cheaper, but it’s 50-100 times more potent and far more lethal.

Mills also notes that the overdose reversal drug Narcan was detected in about 30 percent of the people who died.

“That means somebody tried to revive that person, but was unsuccessful, didn't get there in time, didn't get to them in time,” says Mills. “So we've got to provide naloxone more widely, more generously.”

The average age of those who died was 41, which is close to the average age of Maine’s population.

The attorney general also says Maine needs to provide more education and treatment to prevent deaths.

This post was updated at 3:05 p.m.