The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner have released figures demonstrating that drug overdose deaths slightly decreased in the third quarter of 2020, though the total year-to-date deaths is on pace to significantly exceed those in 2019. Attorney General Aaron M. Frey says that the numbers are still too high and serve as evidence of the opioid epidemic's continued force as a public health crisis.
In response to the report, Attorney General Frey said, "we must urgently work to connect Mainers who are struggling with substance use disorder with the resources they need to protect them and help them advance in recovery, and we must come together as a community to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control so that barriers to treatment and support are removed."
The report compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg and Dr. Kiley Daley of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, showed that 122 deaths were caused by drugs in the third quarter of 2020. This is a 7% decrease from the second quarter of 2020. The 380 deaths caused by drugs in the first three quarters of 2020 represent a 24% increase over the previous three-quarter period, April December 2019, which had a total of 306. 83% of deaths were caused by at least one opioid, frequently nonpharmaceutical fentanyl, and 81% of deaths were caused by two or more drugs.
The report notes, similarly to last quarters report, that these increases are comparable to increases being seen nationally, which are "likely due at least in part to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related mitigation measures: isolation, avoidance of or difficulty accessing medical services, and alterations in the illicit drug supply."
Attorney General Frey noted that combating drug deaths continues to be a priority of the Office of the Attorney General. He is a member of the Governors Prevention and Recovery Cabinet.