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After years of rising overdose deaths, there could also be a slight glimmer of hope. Thus far this yr, the variety of overdose deaths in Maine is barely decrease than final yr.
Within the first half of this yr, 307 folks died of suspected drug overdoses, in comparison with 331 throughout the identical time the earlier yr. That’s a couple of 7 % decline. A document 723 deaths have been attributed to overdoses final yr.
As well as, there was a drop in overdoses in whole, from 5,155 within the first six months of 2022 to five,017 from January by June this yr.
Gordon Smith, the state’s director of opioid response, mentioned that whereas the pattern was optimistic, the excessive variety of deaths was nonetheless unacceptable.
“It’s typically excellent news. However, to lose 307 Mainers within the first half of the yr continues to be too many,” Smith mentioned in an interview with the Bangor Day by day Information editorial board.
Smith mentioned the decline in each overdoses and overdose deaths could also be attributable to the various steps the state has taken, together with making the overdose-reversing drug naloxone extra out there, growing the variety of spots in therapy services and having extra peer helps out there to those that wish to or have stopped substance use.
For these causes, he mentioned he was “cautiously optimistic” concerning the downward pattern in overdoses. That optimism is bolstered by the greater than $235 million Maine is anticipated to obtain over the following twenty years in settlement cash from pharmaceutical opioid makers. That cash will help extra therapy and different providers.
Smith emphasised that analysis exhibits that three-quarters of individuals with substance use dysfunction will get into restoration, a technique of ending or minimizing substance use as they regain their well being and wellbeing.
The state’s up to date opioid response strategic plan places an emphasis on hurt discount as a optimistic contributor to Maine’s declining overdose deaths.
Hurt discount emphasizes practices, reminiscent of syringe exchanges and packages that join those that use substances with restoration sources and helps. We’d additionally push for extra progress on protected consumption websites and decriminalization of small quantities of medicine.
The little bit of encouraging information about overdose deaths, nevertheless, is coupled with considerations a couple of new contaminant within the drug provide. Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, is now being present in drug samples in all 50 states.
Xylazine is being added to fentanyl, which already is a contributor to the rise in overdose deaths. It’s unclear whether or not xylazine worsens or reduces the danger of an overdose when utilizing opioids. Xylazine places customers in a trance-like state and is linked to extreme pores and skin ulcers, which might result in amputations. It doesn’t reply to naloxone, which is now getting used to reverse many opioid overdoses.
On the state’s annual opioid response summit final month, Gov. Janet Mills introduced that the state will dedicate $1 million to buy and distribute check strips to detect xylazine. As well as, the Maine Division of Well being and Human Providers will work with state well being care suppliers and group organizations to extend consciousness of xylazine and its dangers, in addition to the therapy of its unintended effects.
“The rising presence of xylazine is making a disaster degree state of affairs even worse,” Mills mentioned in an announcement on the day of the summit. “When blended with the already extremely harmful fentanyl, xylazine makes medication extra deadly and naloxone — which has saved 1000’s of lives in Maine — is powerless to reverse its results.”
As Smith advised the BDN, “there’s a lot work to do” to finish Maine’s opioid epidemic. A whole bunch of persons are nonetheless dying throughout the state, and that requires continued motion and resolve. This yr’s overdose numbers to this point, nevertheless, supply a glimmer of hope for the primary time in 5 years.