Marcella Sorg’s research on drug overdose deaths in Maine

Research conducted by Marcella Sorg, PhD, of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, for the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner shows that in 2016 there was a nearly 40% increase in deaths due to a drug overdose from 2015. The overwhelming majority of these deaths, 84%, were caused alone or in combination with an opioid. New maps from the Portland Press Herald illustrate the extent of all drug overdose deaths and opioid deaths by county in Maine in 2016. These maps result from the expanded Maine Drug Death Report for 2016, written by Marcella Sorg and just released by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.

“The number of deaths caused by heroin and fentanyl is unprecedented,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. The summary shows how the numbers of drug deaths are expanding across the state. Only 5 counties had more than 10 deaths in 2015 and in 2016 that number increased to 10 counties. It also shows that traditional service center cities are bearing a heavy load. While Portland has 5% of the state’s total population, 11% of the overdose deaths were recorded there in 2016. Bangor is home to just 2% of the total population, but it recorded 9% of the 2016 overdose deaths.

The analysis shows that while deaths due to pharmaceutical opioids have been eclipsed by fentanyl and heroin, the number of deaths from prescription painkillers increased last year to 123 – the highest level since 2010. An analysis conducted by Dr. Sorg of the cases in 2015 in which a pharmaceutical opioid was implicated as a cause of death observed that only 7 percent had a prescription for that drug at the time of their death.

Download the full report: EXPANDED MAINE DRUG DEATH REPORT FOR 2016

Read the Portland Press Herald article