drug overdoses

Ted S. Warren / AP Images

Drug overdose deaths in Maine are on the rise.

Drug overdose deaths in Maine increased in 2019 by 7% over the previous year.  That's according to figures in a new report the Maine Attorney General's Office released Friday.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there was a dramatic spike in drug overdose cases in Cumberland County over the course of Friday night. They are attributing this spike to tainted illicit drugs.

Following a recent spike in the number of overdose deaths in Maine's largest city, Portland Police are reaching out to remind the public that there are resources available to help those at risk.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public File

The latest report from the Maine Medical Examiner shows drug overdose deaths increased in 2019.

Boom In Overdose-Reversing Drug Is Tied To Fewer Drug Deaths

Aug 7, 2019
Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

NEW YORK — Prescriptions of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone are soaring, and experts say that could be a reason overdose deaths have stopped rising for the first time in nearly three decades.

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.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

The number of people dying from drug overdoses in Maine this year is on pace with last year, when 370 lives were lost. Now, some advocates are calling for stronger local action to address the opioid epidemic.

On Monday morning, advocates, family members and friends of people affected by substance use disorder sang as they placed 38 roses on the step of Lewiston City Hall — one for each city resident who has died from a drug overdose in the past two years.

PORTLAND, Maine - Police say first responders in Portland were called to assist in eight suspected nonfatal drug overdoses over a roughly 24-hour period that occurred earlier this week.
The Portland Press Herald reports that most of the victims were treated with Narcan, an anti-opioid drug which reverses the effects of overdoses, and all were sent to the hospital.
Lt. Robert Martin says the Portland Police Department sees an average of about two or three overdoses per day.

Six months ago, lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage came together in a rare show of unity to pass legislation to start to address Maine’s opioid crisis. The bill included funding for additional drug enforcement and prosecution efforts as well as for drug education initiatives and a ten-bed detox unit. As an emergency bill it was supposed to be well underway by now.

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, a Portland Democrat, says he’s frustrated that little has been done to implement the legislation since it was signed by the Governor.

Maine Governor Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage has doubled down on his claim that a Deering High School student was revived from a heroin overdose three times in a week.

In response to a spate of overdoses this week, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is warning people about a deadly mixture of heroin, caffeine and fentanyl, and also about a new mixture called acetyl fentanyl.  These appear to be causing users to overdose more quickly than if they were using straight heroin. 

Maine has had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2003.  Designed to prevent and detect prescription drug diversion, it's an electronic database of all transactions involving controlled substances. In other words, it's a way for pharmacists and physicians to keep track of the types and quantities of pills that are being prescribed.  But the program is voluntary. And with drug overdoes deaths climbing, Maine's attorney general says it's time to beef up the program and its mission.