- Associated Press - Friday, May 15, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The number of drug-related deaths in Maine grew last year to an all-time high, a worrisome statistic fueled in part by a growing number of heroin and fentanyl overdoses, state officials said Friday.

An analysis released by the Maine attorney general’s office found that 208 people died in 2014 from drug overdoses in Maine. That’s a jump of 18 percent from the previous year, when 176 people died.

“Not one county, not one community is untouched by this scourge,” Attorney General Janet Mills said in a statement. The age of victims range from 18 to 88, and the average age was 43, she said.

Heroin deaths played a big role, increasing from 34 in 2013 to 57 in 2014, the analysis concluded. Fentanyl-related deaths also jumped, from nine in 2013 to 43 in 2014, the said.

“What is remarkable about the numbers in 2014 is a new increase in heroin and fentanyl deaths driving the number of total deaths to an unprecedented level for Maine,” said Marcella Sorg of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, who created the analysis.

Fentanyl, an opioid, is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Police and prosecutors attribute the fentanyl spike to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl being sold on the streets as heroin.

The scope of the opioid drug problem points toward the need for a three-pronged approach of education, interdiction and treatment, Mill said. “No single focus will solve the problem,” she said.

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