Dr. Marcella Sorg’s Enhanced Drug Death Report released by Attorney General

The Maine Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner have released figures from a report compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg, a research professor at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. These figures demonstrate that drug overdose deaths significantly increased during the first quarter of 2020. Additionally, preliminary analysis of the second quarter, based on numbers from April and May, project a continuation of this trend. These data show a statistically significant increase in deaths attributed to drug overdoses compared to 2019.

Attorney General Aaron M. Frey stated that “the opioid epidemic remains a crisis requiring our immediate and sustained attention.” He further noted that “the data in [Dr. Sorg’s] report confirms that the crisis has intensified nationally in the midst of the global pandemic.”

The Enhanced Q1 Drug Death Report showed that 127 deaths were caused by drugs in the first three months of 2020. This represents a 23% increase over the fourth quarter of 2019. 82% of drug deaths were caused by at least one opioid and 80% of deaths included two or more drugs. Preliminary estimates project a total of 235 drug overdose deaths for the first half of 2020. In total, there were 380 drug deaths in 2019.

Dr. Sorg notes that these increases are comparable to increases being seen nationally, which are attributed to the effects of the pandemic including social isolation, economic difficulty, and and a reluctance to seek medical attention. Disruptions in drug supplies internationally have resulted in substitutions and combinations that may be contributing to additional vulnerabilities to overdose. Attorney General Frey noted that mitigating drug deaths continues to be a priority for the Office of the Attorney General. He is a member of the Governor’s Prevention and Recovery Cabinet. The full report by Dr. Sorg is linked below.

Enhanced Q1 Drug Death Report