Attorney General of Maine Releases Drug Overdose Data for 2020 and March-April 2021

Drug Overdose concept

Concept: Lethal overdose of toxic substances by Oleg Kovalevich

AUGUSTA - 504 Mainers died from drug overdoses in 2020, according to the annual report released by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). The OAG and OCME have also released drug overdose data for March and April 2021. The reports draw attention to the continued devastation the opioid epidemic is causing in Maine. The March and April reports continue monthly reporting, designed to improve transparency and timeliness regarding Maine's epidemic of substance use morbidity and mortality.

Year-to-date numbers will be updated with each new monthly report, as cases are finalized, and their overdose status is confirmed or ruled out. The totals are expected to shift as this evolution occurs. In addition, as a result of using a smaller sample size in each month, totals are expected to fluctuate due to the effects of random variation. The reports will also feature aspects of the states response to the epidemic. These monthly reports will be posted on https://mainedrugdata.com.

The reports were compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The annual report showed that 504 deaths were caused by drugs in 2020, which is a 33% increase over 380 in 2019. 336 of those deaths were due to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, a 30% increase over 2019. In March 2021, an estimated 53 individuals died from drug overdoses; 30 of these drug deaths are confirmed and 23 are suspected. In April 2021, an estimated 48 individuals died from drug overdoses; 10 of these drug deaths are confirmed and 38 are suspected. Of the drug deaths in 2021 through the April monthly report, 76% were due to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl.

In response to the report, Attorney General Aaron M. Frey said, "it is important to recognize and mourn those who have died, and we must consider the data behind these deaths, particularly as it relates to prevalence of fentanyl in overdoses. The pandemic has impacted efforts and contributed to these nationwide trends, but more work needs to be done to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on drug overdose deaths. We must act with continued urgency to ensure that all appropriate systems are directing those caught up in the epidemic to resources that will assist in rehabilitation."

Frey continued, "no single intervention will solve this crisis. I am hopeful that initiatives underway in the Mills Administration, such as the MaineMOM Initiative highlighted in the March 2021 report, will lead to positive outcomes. It is incumbent on leaders from all across Maine to come to the table to pursue solutions which will save lives."

Attorney General Frey also highlighted the passage of a bill signed into law by Governor Mills yesterday which establishes the Accidental Overdose Death Review Panel in the OAG. The panel, which is modeled from others which examine tragic incidents in the state, would play a constructive role in bringing stakeholders together to examine specific cases, identify what is working, and make recommendations for what may be done to prevent accidental overdoses from occurring.

The reports from Dr. Sorg are attached.

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