BRIDGTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — There is more troubling news about the ongoing opioid crisis.
According to the CDC, more people nationwide died from heroin-related causes than from gun homicides last year.
Here in Maine in 2015, drug overdose deaths from heroin, fentanyl and other opioids surpassed the number of fatalities from car accidents for the very first time.
Two-hundred and eighty-six people have died from drug overdoses in Maine this year.
Just five years ago, motor vehicle deaths outnumbered fatal heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths in Maine by almost 9-to-1. Doctors said it's going to get worse because more people are switching to heroin because of stricter monitoring of prescription drugs.
Heroin is often mixed with fentanyl, which is linked to the dramatic rise in opioid deaths.
Dr. Peter Leighton, an internist, is certified to prescribe Suboxone. He said it's the most effective drug to treat opiate addiction.
Leighton sees about 90 patients who also must undergo substance abuse counseling. He said the statistics from the CDC are not surprising.
He believes opioid overdose deaths will continue to rise in Maine because more people are turning to heroin — an unintended consequence of a new opioid prescribing law.
The second phase, which lowers doses for thousands of patients, goes into effect Jan. 1.
"As the supply goes down, the price for those opiates are going to go up," Leighton said. "Why in the world would someone pay $40 for an opiate tablet when they can get a heroin dose for $5? it's a no-brainer."
Doctors say a lack of substance abuse programs and a shortage of doctors who prescribe Suboxone — between 2 and 4 percent across the country — are contributing to the epidemic.