Drug-related deaths in Maine were already increasing, and became worse during the coronavirus pandemic, according to state officials.
Preliminary estimates from the report project a total of 132 drug overdose deaths for the second quarter 2020, the Maine attorney general’s office and the Maine medical examiner’s office wrote in a report released Friday.
That’s a slight increase from the first three months of 2020, when 127 people died due to drugs, primarily non-prescription opioids and fentanyl.
That marks a 23 percent increase compared with the last quarter of 2019, when 103 people died of drug overdoses.
Drug overdose deaths rose nationally, and are linked to the social effects of the pandemic including increased isolation, economic hardship and reluctance to seek medical attention, according to the report.
“The data in this report confirms that the crisis has intensified nationally in the midst of the global pandemic,” Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said Friday. “It remains clear that combating the pandemic, strengthening our public health infrastructure and taking steps to ensure that Mainers are connected with resources in their community are efforts which are linked with one another.”
The report, compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, said that most of these drug-related deaths, about 82 percent, were caused by at least one opioid and 80 percent of deaths included two or more drugs.
International interruptions in drug supplies have resulted in people substituting drugs and combining them, which may be contributing to overdoses, the report said.