The latest report from the Maine Medical Examiner shows drug overdose deaths increased in 2019.
There were 277 fatal overdoses through September. That puts the projected number for the entire year at 369 — 15 more than the previous year.
The report shows that fatal overdoses in Maine are still primarily driven by illicit drugs, including fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine. Most of the deaths, 82 percent, were caused by a combination of two or more drugs with at least one opioid involved.
State Director of Opioid Response Gordon Smith says the figures are disappointing and illustrate just how complex a problem Maine is facing. Smith says over the past year the state has expanded the availability of the overdose-reversing drug, naloxone, moved an additional 6000 people into treatment through Medicaid expansion and doubled the number of physicians who can prescribe medication for substance use disorder. Smith plans to convene a panel of experts to review a portion of the overdose fatalities, explore other contributing factors and steps that could be taken to reverse the trend.
Originally published 5:46 p.m. January 23, 2020