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Overdose deaths up 9 percent compared to this time last year

According to a study done by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, overdose deaths are on the rise nationwide.

PORTLAND, Maine — Last year, drug overdoses killed a record 627 people. That number is more than four times higher than the 155 people who died of a drug overdose 10 years the year before, in 2011. 

Research done by the Margaret Chase Smith Center at the University of Maine shows another significant spike so far in 2022. 

Researchers at the Margaret Chase Smith Center found one of the biggest factors in these deaths is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. 

"It doesn't mix well. ... Just like cooking, you can get lumps of things," UMaine researcher Marcella Sorg said. 

That means no two doses are the same, making overdoses more likely. 

In May, there were 48 reported drug overdose deaths in Maine. Of those, 31 deaths involved fentanyl mixed with other drugs.

Harm reduction specialists say you can help curb the trend.

"Having Narcan is extremely important to saving a life," Kerri Barton from Portland Public Health said.

"All you have to do is insert the plastic tip into the person's nose as far up as it can go, then hit the plunger, dispensing the entire dose that is in [the] cartridge," Barton explained.

Last month, 67 percent of fatal overdoses had Narcan administered, either by a bystander or a first responder. In some cases, it can make a big difference. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the number of overdose deaths in 2021 in Maine due to incorrect information provided. 

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