BANGOR — Drug overdoses are skyrocketing in Maine and new data shows non pharmaceutical opioids are a major factor.
Last year was one of the deadliest years for drug overdoses in the state of Maine.
That’s according to the Office of the Maine Attorney General. Preliminary data shows the death toll was up 33 percent in 2020 compared to a 30 percent increase in 2019.
Attorney General Aaron Frey said the alarming trend is being driven by illicit drug supply on the streets.
“Five hundred and four people lost their lives to a fatal drug overdose,” said Frey. “When my office looked into some common allies of what was happening, a high percentage of those deaths happened because of a nonpharmaceutical opioid, in particular fentanyl.”
Jamie Comstock, the health promotion manager for Bangor Public Health and Community Services, said fentanyl is usually combined with stimulants including methamphetamine, cocaine, and more.
She said fentanyl is cheap, easily distributed, and one of the dangerous drugs on the black market
“We did a really good job restricting safer prescription pharmaceuticals and so that can drive people to look at the illicit drug supply for replacement,” Comstock said
Frey said there are steps to reduce drug overdoses with the creation of the Accidental Death Overdose Review Panel.
“It’s really constructed to bring in a range of voices from treatment providers, government, law enforcement,” said Frey. “Again to really dig down on what is happening to folks who are succumbing to drug overdose.”
Jill Henderson, communications coordinator of Health Equity Alliance, said she’s happy the state is taking multiple approaches to help save lives.
“If there’s a spike in the county you signed up for, you can get a text alert which tells you there were more than three overdoses in 24 hours,” she said.
Officials said it’s important to have naloxone, also known as Narcan, whenever you leave the house. They said the lifesaving medication can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids within seconds.