Police & Fire

Maine saw 16 percent decline in fatal overdoses in 2023

By Christopher Burns, Bangor Daily News Staff

Maine saw a 16 percent decline in fatal overdoses last year.

That’s according to preliminary figures released in the December monthly overdose report compiled by researchers from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine in Orono.

Between January and December 2023, Maine saw 607 confirmed and suspected fatal drug overdoses, compared with 2022’s record 723 deaths. That is the largest year-over-year decline since 2018, when fatal overdoses fell 15 percent from the year prior.

The drop in fatalities is mirrored by a decline in overall overdoses, which fell 7.3 percent to 9,047 in 2023.

The bulk of fatal and nonfatal overdoses occurred in Cumberland (2,036) and Penobscot (1,253) counties, while Piscataquis (109) and Sagadahoc (130) saw the fewest.

Men continue to make up the bulk of overdose victims at 73 percent, while just under half of fatal overdoses were in Mainers ages 40-59. Last year, there were three drug deaths in Mainers under age 18.

Researchers found that fentanyl continues to show up in most overdose deaths, with the drug appearing in about 78 percent of confirmed cases. Other prominent drugs cited as a cause of death include methamphetamine (31 percent), cocaine (37 percent) and xylazine (9 percent). Fentanyl commonly appeared in fatal combinations with cocaine (32 percent) and meth (26 percent).

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