Driven by the painkiller addiction epidemic, the number of people in Maine who have died from a heroin overdose each year since 2011 has increased by 300%, according to Harper’s Magazine, which cites data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Some experts say that the trend is partly being fueled by recent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers, which has led to a rise in the amount of low-cost heroin in New England states that is increasingly purer and thus more potent and dangerous. According to this recent article in the New York Times, though heroin was once seen as an urban drug, it has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England, including in Maine.
Earlier this year, a report found that more than one-third of the prescription drugs stolen from Maine pharmacies are taken by employees. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of state disciplinary records revealed that from 2003 to 2013, 16 pharmacists and 41 pharmacy technicians lost their licenses for stealing drugs from pharmacy shelves or from the patients whose prescriptions they filled.
While Maine is seeing some progress in terms of curbing prescription drug abuse, substance abuse specialists in the state say there has been a sharp uptick in heroin addiction as pill addicts make the switch to the illegal street drug.