2015 drug deaths likely to exceed previous record

ELLSWORTH — Maine is on track to set a disturbing record for 2015.

In the first nine months of this past year, there were 174 drug overdose deaths in Maine. While data for the fourth quarter is not yet available, officials estimated the total 2015 overdose death toll to be between 230 and 250.

The top end of that range represents a 20 percent increase over the prior record-setting year. In 2014, there were 208 drug deaths.

“Maine’s opioid epidemic continues to rage,” said state Attorney General Janet Mills. “This problem seems to have the attention of everyone but the users. I am heartened by the response I have seen from leaders in our state who all want to solve this problem.

“In recent days, the police have taken major actions to disrupt the supply of heroin and other opiates into our state and to protect our citizenry from those who would sell it. We can and must do more. We must also begin the long effort of curbing the demand for these deadly substances by educating people of the dangers and supporting people in recovery from addiction.”

Of the deaths in the first nine months of 2015, 65 percent involved at least one pharmaceutical drug and 64 percent involved at least one illicit drug. Many of the deaths (29 percent) were caused by a combination of pharmaceutical and illicit drugs.

Pharmaceutical opioids remain a key substance category, with 70 deaths caused by at least one pharmaceutical opioid. Heroin and Fentanyl are increasingly named as a cause of death, with 71 deaths caused by heroin and 54 caused by Fentanyl or acetyl Fentanyl. In 74 percent of all the cases, multiple drugs are listed as a cause of death.

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