Portland police have reported a drug overdose rash since Christmas

Portland police say they have responded to an “alarming number of overdoses” since Christmas, including two fatal overdoses that occurred at the end of a record year for drug deaths in Maine.

Portland police officers also responded to 21 non-fatal overdoses during this period. Narcan was given to victims by first responders or bystanders in 14 of the 21 reported non-fatal overdoses, department spokesman David Singer said in a press release on Monday.

What the Portland police experience reflects what has happened across the state and across the country.

Maine was well on its way to losing more than 600 residents to fatal overdoses in 2021, reporting 515 fatal drug overdoses between January 1 and October 31. That number surpasses the record of 502 overdose deaths in the state in 2020. The previous high was 417 deaths in 2017, which was considered the peak of the opioid crisis prior to the pandemic.

Statistics are not yet available for November and December due to delays due to pandemic-related problems. Toxicological reports are returned to the chief physician’s office six to eight weeks after a person dies, three to four times longer than before the pandemic.

The surge in overdoses in 2021 will be fueled by the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is found in almost every illegally sold drug. Over the past decade, the number of annual overdose deaths has more than tripled, mainly driven by opioids.

“I think people’s stress and isolation from the pandemic are certainly factors, but I think the biggest factor is drug lethality,” Leslie Clark, executive director of the Portland Recovery Community Center, told the Press Herald last month . “When we think of people at risk or at risk of relapse, the consequences are even greater. In the past, this experience was not so likely that it would kill you. “

More than 7,800 overdoses were reported in Maine between January and October, according to the state’s monthly overdose report, jointly funded by the Maine Attorney General and the Office of Behavioral Health. The monthly report provides an overview of fatal and non-fatal overdoses that occur each month in Maine.

The rise in drug overdoses in Maine reflects a national trend. In November 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported 100,306 deaths from drug overdose in the United States in the 12 months ended April 2021. This is a 28.5 percent increase from the United States 78,056 deaths in the same period last year.

Portland Police and the city’s Department of Health urge residents to be aware of the availability of Narcan, which can be used to save a person’s life. Narcan is available from pharmacies without a prescription, and the Portland Public Health Department offers free Narcan, as well as overdose and reaction training, to the public.

Narcan, a brand name for naloxone, is a medicine that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose. It can restore a person to normal breathing if their breathing has slowed or stopped due to an opioid overdose. Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or injected. Should you encounter an overdose situation, the police recommend calling 911 and staying with the person until first responders arrive.

For information on drug prevention in adolescents, please contact Jiffy Kelley-Young at 207-874-8452

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