Fatal overdoses in Portland this year have already surpassed 2021 numbers, Portland police said Tuesday.
Police responded to 28 fatal overdoses from Jan. 1 to July 5, five more than the 23 fatal overdoses they saw in 2021. It was a “tragic milestone,” the department said.
That’s around one fatal overdose a week compared with one every 16 days in 2021.
The numbers showcase the continued effects of extremely deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine. The wide availability of such drugs have ravaged Maine communities rural and urban alike, including in Bangor, which had 140 suspected drug overdose calls to police as of late June, 18 of which were fatal.
What is happening in Portland is in line with increases in overdoses across the state. A report from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine found a 20 percent increase in overdoses from January to May in 2022 compared with that same period in 2021.
That ultimately resulted in 22 more deaths compared with the same period the previous year and hundreds more non-fatal overdoses.
If fatal overdoses continue at their current rate, Portland will have 55 fatal overdoses by the end of the year. In a community that the U.S. Census Bureau estimated to have 68,000 people last year, that’s around one fatal overdose for every 1,200 residents.
Total overdoses, including non-fatal ones, were also at a number far above last year: 238 had been reported up to July 4, compared with 129 in 2021 and 128 in 2020, according to an infographic posted by Portland police.
The department had seen an 84 percent increase in overdose incidents compared with this time in 2020 and 2021, the department said.
“It’s clear that the opioid epidemic is not slowing down and we are on track to surpass the record set in 2017 of 436 overdoses,” the department said in a statement.
Of those 2022 overdoses, 99 (42 percent) were transported to the hospital and 41 (17 percent) were revived by police using the anti-overdose drug Narcan.
Fatal overdoses made up 12 percent of overdoses reported to officials.