“Substance use disorder is a challenging, complicated disease. There is no quick or easy cure. Instead, it requires enduring treatment and sustained support – which my administration will continue to provide,” said Governor Janet T. Mills in a press release issued by her office this morning.
The Governor’s press release was in response to the state’s drug use report issued showing that 2019 showed an increase in drug use from 2019. The report was prepared by Dr. Marcella Sorg, of the Margaret Chase Smith Center at the University of Maine.
“We will continue to put the full force of this administration behind conquering this disease, supporting the families who have lost loved ones, the businesses who have lost valued employees, and all the communities that have been diminished by this public health crisis. This epidemic grew over a long, long time and it will take a long, long time to defeat it and make our state w hole again.”
Drug deaths totaled 380 in 2019, a 7% increase over 354 in 2019, but is still lower than the 407 peak in 2017 according to the latest Maine Drug Death Report for 2019 – issued by AG Aaron M. Frey’s office. “This remains a powerful public health challenge for Maine,” AG Frey said is his accompanying press release.
Of those, 380 were caused by opioids, nearly always in combination with other drugs or alcohol, the new Drug Report continues from above. This increase over 2018 was largely driven by a 16% rise in deaths due to non-pharmaceutical drugs, primarily fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, as well as cocaine and methamphetamine.
The number of deaths due to non-pharmaceutical opioids with or without co-intoxicant pharmaceutical opioids increased from 200 to 253 (26%), whereas the number due to pharmaceutical opioids without non-pharmaceutical opioids declined from 52 to 48 (8%) – the largest impacts are due to drug trafficking from outside the state according to the Report Executive Summary.
Maine has seen a dramatic increase in the involvement of non-opioid illicit drugs in general. This includes the more recent rise in deaths due to illicit stimulants. Cocaine was increased as a cause of death in 29% of all drug deaths, 34% of fentanyl deaths and 18% of heroin deaths according to the same Summary.
“It is important as Maine, appropriately focuses its energy on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, that we also maintain and increase our efforts to fight the opioid epidemic,” said AG Frey in his accompanying press release. “The data in this report confirms how significant this crisis remains. It also highlights the importance of elected officials, individual organizations and communities across the state.”