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Maine is struggling to stem the deadly rise of fentanyl

As if families needed worse news on the addiction front, a study published last week shows a troubling fact: Nearly half of all U.S. opioid-related deaths in 2016 involved fentanyl.

Maine appears to be in an even more disadvantageous position. Of the 313 opioid-related deaths in 2016, 195 — or 62 percent — involved fentanyl, according to the Maine attorney general’s office. In 2017 it was 70 percent: 247 of 354 opioid-related deaths.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is difficult to trace, and small amounts can be deadly. While 30 milligrams of heroin can be lethal, it can take just 3 milligrams of fentanyl to kill an average-sized adult male. It is often mixed with heroin or cocaine to enhance the euphoric effects — with or without the user’s knowledge.

In the research letter published May 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration analyzed mortality data from 2010 to 2016 and discovered that overdose deaths involving fentanyl now surpass those involving prescription opioids.

Among the 42,249 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, 19,413 (45.9 percent) involved fentanyl; 17,087 (40.4 percent) involved prescription opioids; and 15,469 (36.6 percent) involved heroin. Some deaths involved multiple drugs.

The Fiddlehead Focus/St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Maine is struggling to stem the deadly rise of fentanyl,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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