The number of Maine residents who died of drug overdoses in 2014 hit a record number, according to an analysis released Friday by the Maine Office of the Attorney General.

The analysis, done by Marcella Sorg of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, along with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, found that 208 people in Maine died of drug overdoses – an increase of 18 percent over the previous year, when 176 died of drug overdoses.

The drugs ranged from cocaine to heroin and other opioids. The number of deaths from heroin alone jumped from 34 in 2013 to 57 in 2014.

“Not one county, not one community is untouched by this scourge,” said Attorney General Janet Mills in the release. “Profit seeking dealers from out-of-state are setting up shop along the I-95 corridor and dealing in every corner of the state. No one is immune from these deaths. The age of those who died range from 18 to 88, and the average age is 43 years old.”

Sorg said the increase in drug overdoses dates as far back as 2001, and is attributable largely to pharmaceutical opioids.

“What is remarkable about the numbers in 2014 is a new increase in heroin and fentanyl deaths driving the number of total deaths to an unprecedented level for Maine,” Sorg said in the release.

Fentanyl-related deaths jumped from nine in 2013 to 43 in 2014. Fentanyl, an opioid, is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Officials say the fentanyl spike is attributable to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl being sold on the streets as heroin.

Alcohol was involved in about a third of the drug deaths, and tranquilizers and antidepressants were often involved.

“These tragic numbers point to the need for a comprehensive three-pronged approach to substance abuse: education, interdiction and treatment. No single focus will solve the problem,” Mills said.


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