By Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2020

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Drug overdose deaths increased slightly in the first three quarters of 2019 in Maine, where the nationwide opioid crisis has taken a heavy toll.

A report by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center stated Thursday that 277 Maine deaths from January to September of 2019 were caused by drugs. The death total is forecast to be 4% higher than 2018, Sorg’s report said.

More than 80% of the overdoses were the result of at least one opioid, the report stated. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl deaths constituted four-fifths of all opioid deaths in 2019, the report stated.

Pharmaceutical opioid deaths made up a quarter of the deaths, cutting against a downward trend in that category. Most of the deaths were caused by two or more drugs, and the average cause of death involved three.

The increase in deaths shows the opioid crisis in Maine remains significant, and countering the crisis will take more work by elected officials, said Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey.

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