Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said a new report from his office and the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows that the opioid epidemic is a serious public health emergency, being made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, drug overdose deaths have continued to increase in the second quarter of 2020, confirming preliminary analysis by Frey’s office and mirroring similar increases in other states.
“It is clear from the data that the increase in deaths from the opioid epidemic can be partially attributed to the increased isolation of living through the pandemic,” said Frey. “The data in this report confirms that the crisis has continued to intensify nationally. It is another reminder that our communities are stronger when we are connected with one another and pro-actively make efforts to help our neighbors. We have to ensure that Mainers who are struggling with substance use disorder are connected with the resources they need to protect them and help them advance in recovery. This increase in drug overdose deaths also reminds us that working with public health experts and community leaders to combat the pandemic is crucial in order to successfully protect the public from other major challenges. All Mainers are in this struggle together, and I will continue to work with legislators, Governor Mills, the executive branch, and leaders throughout the state to address this crisis.”
The report, compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, found that there were 132 drug overdose deaths in the state in the second quarter of 2020, a 4 percent increase over the first quarter of 2020. In the first six months of 2020, the state had a total of 258 drug overdose deaths – a 27 percent increase over the last six months of 2019. The report found that 82 percent of the deaths were caused by at least one opioid, and 81 percent were caused by two or more drugs.
Sorg’s report said these increases are comparable to those being seen across the country and are partly attributed to the “isolation, avoidance of medical services, and alterations in the illicit drug supply” brought about by the pandemic.