Portland saw a 25 percent increase in overdoses in 2019 compared to the year before — and seven fatal and 79 non-fatal overdoses in illegal drugs since May 1, according to police.
“There have historically been upticks in overdoses here in the city at this time of the year,” police chief Frank Clark said Monday, “but the recent spike and this number of overdoses and deaths over a 70 day period is disturbing and warrants public awareness and notification.”
Fatal drug overdoses climbed 7 percent in 2019 in Maine, but remain below their peak in 2017, with 380 Mainers dying from drug overdoses, up from 354 in 2018. Drug overdose deaths peaked at 417 in 2017.
The increase in 2019 of overdoses in Portland, meanwhile, contrasts sharply with the rest of the state. The total number of overdoses in emergency departments declined by approximately 7 percent from 2017 to 2018, the most recent years available, according to a report by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The subset of drug overdoses involving opioids of any type declined approximately 14 percent over the same period, while heroin overdoses declined by approximately 21 percent.
The spike in overdoses is not yet linked to one specific substance, according to the statement.
Naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug also known as Narcan, was administered in most of the non-fatal cases, according to the statement. Between 2008 and 2019, Portland had 373 deaths that were attributed to overdoses.
Clark encouraged people to use the 20 needle drop-off sites within Portland or to call the city Public Works Department at 207-874-8493 if they find needles.