The number of people killed by drug overdoses in Maine during the first three months of the year fell slightly from last year, state authorities said Friday.

Between January and March, 86 people died of overdoses, down from 89 such deaths during the same time period in 2017, according to the offices of the Maine Attorney General and the Chief Medical Examiner.

Although the total number of deaths declined, more people who die from overdoses are killed by illegal substances, including fentanyl, as opposed to pharmaceutical opioids.

About 65 percent of the deaths recorded in the first quarter were due to fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, up from 52 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2017.

“We must break the stranglehold that opioid use has on our state,” said Attorney General Janet Mills in the statement. Mills, who is one of seven Democratic candidates for governor, oversees the medical examiner’s office. “The figures released today demonstrate dramatically that we have not yet turned the tide against opioids and there is still much work to be done.

Mills urged more treatment, education and prevention efforts, and called on the Legislature to act on the issues.

The figures released were compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

In all of 2017, 418 people died of drug-related causes. In 2016, that figure was 376 deaths—many of which were chronicled in a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram series, Lost: Heroin’s Killer Grip on Maine’s People.

This story will be updated.


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