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Overdose Deaths in Maine Spiked to 272 in 2015

Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center

Overdose Deaths in Maine Spiked to 272 in 2015

Maine is reporting a record number of overdose deaths in 2015.

“Two hundred seventy-two people died in 2015 due to drug overdoses,” says Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. “This is more than a 30 percent increase over the year before, and we thought those figures were pretty bad.”

Mills says the spike is associated with an increase in deaths caused by heroin or fentanyl — or both — in the second half of the year. And Marcella Sorg of UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, who conducted the analysis for Mills’ office, says that for the first time in Maine, deaths by illicit drugs exceeded those attributed to prescription opioids.

“And the pharmaceutical opioids have really stayed — that’s the painkillers — stayed pretty much level and it’s the illicit drugs that are really the problem right now,” Sorg says.

According to the analysis, nearly all those who died used drugs in combination with other intoxicants. Two-thirds were men, and the average age, says Mills, was 42, which is about the age of the average Maine resident.

“Kids are using as much as anybody proportionately, but they’re not dying from it as older people who have have inherent health problems that make them weaker, more susceptible, to even the first dose of heroin or fentanyl or both,” Mills says.

And while all counties recorded at least one overdose death, the largest increase in death rate per 100,000 people was reported in Cumberland County.

Copyright 2016 Maine Public

Keith Shortall is MPBN's News and Public Affairs Director. He grew up in Thomaston, Maine and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1982, majoring in philosophy. He began his career in commercial broadcasting in Portland, before moving to MPBN in 1989. Keith's interests include music (if you consider drummers to be musicians), and theater.

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