AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – Maine is averaging more than one drug overdose a day, according to the Maine Attorney General’s office.
A news release sent out Wednesday states through the first six months of 2017 the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner recorded 185 deaths attributable to drug overdoses. They say the deaths are keeping pace with last year's totals.
The release says the number of deaths represents a slight decrease from the 193 overdose deaths in the first half of 2016, which represented a 50 percent increase over the year before. However, the presence of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs continues to grow.
The A.G.’s office says Fentanyl is an illicitly manufactured drug that is many times more lethal than morphine; it caused 61 percent of the deaths between January and June 2017. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or presented to the user as heroin.
Pharmaceutical opioids caused 30 percent of the deaths, a slight decrease from last year but still a disturbing factor in these overdose deaths. Prescription opioids and illicit opioids are often found together in a fatal cocktail of drugs.
The report also says, in a little over a third of opioid deaths the victims received Naloxone: 34 percent of all drug deaths and 38 percent of opioid deaths.
In 2016, only 25 percent of all drug deaths received Naloxone.
The inability to give Naloxone quickly is the most common reason why it is sometimes ineffective, but these numbers suggest that more and more first responders and families have access to it and are administering it when needed.
Attorney General Janet Mills has distributed Naloxone to nearly 60 law enforcement agencies across the state, starting in June of 2016. Over 2,300 doses have been distributed, with 241 successful applications.
“The opioid epidemic continues to devastate our communities, both rural and urban, all across Maine,” Attorney General Janet T. Mills noted. “As public officials, first responders, and community leaders we must direct resources to real solutions. We must continue to work together to attack this problem, particularly with treatment, prevention and education. It is the greatest challenge of our time.”
“Using any of these drugs, alone or in combination, is playing with fire,” Mills observed.
She called for prescribers to further limit their opiate prescribing practices and for more physicians to become Suboxone prescribers.
“The need is great,” Mills stated, “the need is now.”