Drug Overdose Deaths Soar In Maine In 2016, Fentanyl Largely To Blame
More than one person a day died of a drug overdose in Maine in 2016, and the influx of fentanyl contributed to a 39 percent increase in the number of drug overdose deaths in the state last year, officials said.
In 2015, there were 272 deadly overdoses in Maine, a number that jumped to 378 deaths in 2016, the Maine Office of the Attorney General said in a news release Thursday.
Opioid drugs remain the leading factor in deadly overdoses, with 313 deaths due to opioid abuse, the release said. Fentanyl caused 195 deaths in 2016, a 127 percent increase compared to the year before. Heroin caused 123 deaths, a 15 percent increase.
Experts say fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 times more potent than heroin. The person using the drug, who may have a high tolerance for other opioids, can easily be overcome by fentanyl.
The attorney general's office said fentanyl has been used as a pharmaceutical painkiller, usually in the form of a transdermal patch; but the powdered version of the drug, which is now prevalent in Maine, is illicitly produced in clandestine labs and sold to users as heroin.
“We are losing more than one person each day to a drug overdose,” said Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. “We need to reach out to friends and neighbors and let them know that whatever is wrong in their lives, no drug is going to solve their problems, not for one second."
Attorney General Mills also said the state must provide addicts with more pathways to recovery.