MAINE, USA — The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner released a new monthly report Thursday detailing the number of drug overdoses in Maine.
These more detailed monthly updates will replace quarterly ones and will also include non-fatal overdoses. The goal is to focus on communities at high-risk of overdoses and help those affected seek substance use treatment, counseling, or other harm reduction strategies.
The report, compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, showed that 58 deaths were caused by drugs in January 2021. Of those, 29 are confirmed drug deaths and 29 are suspected drug deaths. The most frequent cause of death in these cases is fentanyl, followed by meth and amphetamines.
The report estimates that 503 people in Maine died from drug overdoses in 2020, which represents a 25 percent increase from 2019. These numbers reflect national data; in December 2020, the U.S. CDC reported 81,000 drug overdose deaths from June 2019 through May 2020, the largest number recorded in the U.S. over a 12-month period.
Like many other states, Maine has seen a sharp rise in overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first monthly report for January 2021 found 58 Maine people died of confirmed or suspected overdoses during the month, which is attributed to increased availability of lethal opioids, predominantly fentanyl, which was found to be present in nearly 70 percent of confirmed overdose deaths in January.
"We must urgently work to connect Mainers who are struggling with substance use disorder with the resources they need to protect them and help them advance in recovery, and we must come together as a community to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control so that barriers to treatment and support are removed,” Attorney General Aaron M. Frey said in response to the report.
“With these deeper insights, the State and Maine’s substance use counselors, hospitals, first responders, and law enforcement can better and more adeptly respond to the scourge of opioid addiction in our communities,” Governor Janet Mills said.
Read the full report below: