Tag Archives: Maine

Maine heroin deaths up 300% since 2011

heroinfoilDriven 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.

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Pharmacy employees contributing to Maine painkiller thefts

pharmacyMore than one-third of the prescription drugs stolen from Maine pharmacies are taken by employees, a new report has found.

According to this article, an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of state disciplinary records has 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.

There are 1,866 pharmacists and 2,461 pharmacy technicians in Maine, so the percentage of pharmacy employees caught stealing drugs is small – although much of pharmacy drug theft likely goes undiscovered and unreported, the article notes.

The American Pharmacists Association has said that pharmacists’ easy access to powerful painkillers often encourages them to take the drugs.

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.

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Cheap, high-grade heroin floods New England

needle ODRecent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers 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 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.

Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011, while New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago, the article says. In Vermont, officials reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40%, according to the article.

A $6 bag of heroin in New York City nets $10 in southern New England and up to $30 or $40 in northern New England, the article adds, citing law enforcement officials.

According to the article:

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. About a quarter of everyone who tries it becomes dependent on it. Users can quickly develop a tolerance, prompting them to seek more and more until the pursuit takes over their lives and, often, leads to ruin.

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Painkiller abuse drives heroin ODs in Maine

heroinfoilLike many other areas that have struggled with prescription drug abuse, Maine is now seeing a dramatic spike in heroin overdoses as pill addicts make the switch to the illegal street drug. Portland city officials say that in the past month, they have responded to 14 reports of overdoses, and there have been three deaths from possible overdoses, according to this article.

On Wednesday alone, the Portland Fire Department provided emergency life-saving medical treatment to four people who had overdosed on heroin, while a fifth person was found dead in an apartment from a possible drug overdose, the article says.

One huge factor behind the switch to heroin is the reformulation of OxyContin, one of the most commonly abused painkillers.

The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that heroin use has risen to 239,000 users in 2010 from 213,000 in 2008 – likely as a result of painkiller addicts switching to the street drug.

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Pill addiction progress in Maine prompts rise in heroin abuse

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.

The trend coincides with the imposition of state-mandated limits on the use of the most effective treatment drugs, according to this article.

It also mirrors national figures: misuse of prescription drugs has dropped about 15 percent nationally since 2010, while heroin use has doubled since 2007, according to a recent report by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of oxycodone prescriptions written in Maine went up by 50 percent, and the state is among those with the highest rise in prescription painkiller abuse in recent years.

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