New statistics show that the number of overdose deaths in January rose higher than in any month last year.

A partnership between the Maine's Attorney General's Office, State Medical Examiner's Office, and the Office of Behavioral Health has started reporting overdose deaths monthly in 2021, in an effort to increase visibility of the state's drug problem. In January, there were 29 confirmed overdose deaths and 29 suspected.

2020 was a record-breaking year for deaths caused by drug overdoses, with the state averaging 42 OD deaths per month. Those numbers fluctuated, month-to-month, between 34 and 53, so January's total of 58 possible overdose deaths shows an upward trend. Officials say they expect that the number of deaths will go down in February, but it's a discouraging start to the year.

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A death is considered a 'drug death' when one or more drugs are mentioned on the death certificate as a contributing factor to the person's demise. The report states that most overdose deaths are accidental, and related to a number of factors, including: the lethality of the drug; the user's overall health/underlying conditions; the circumstances in which the drugs are used.

The report also analyzed the most common drugs causing overdose deaths, with fentanyl analogs topping the list. Fentanyl was responsible for 67% of the overdose deaths in January 2021, followed by heroin at 11%. Cocaine and pharmaceutical opioids were tied at 24% and methamphetamine was responsible for 20%.

One of the goals of the monthly reporting, in partnership with the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative, is to educate the public about this opioid overdose-reversal drug. Anyone who knows a drug user is advised to have Naloxone on hand, and know how to use it. They also hope to encourage those with substance use disorder to always be around others when using their drug of choice, or to seek treatment for their habit.

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