Augusta is the capital of Maine. In 2017, the population was estimated at 18,594, an increase from the 2000 census. The median age of city residents is just under 45 years old. The median income is $42,552 while the median value of a home is $150,538. Like many other areas in the New England region, Augusta is a historic city.
This area was first explored in 1607. It was first inhabited in 1628 by English settlers. Augusta has experienced success throughout American history because of the great soil that is found here, making it a hotbed for agriculture. For a lot of its history, Augusta has been a blue-collar town. It could be one of the factors that have led to a shocking number of overdose deaths among its residents. The substance misuse rates are just as daunting.
The United States is experiencing an overdose epidemic, so Augusta and Maine are not alone in their situation. Studies show that the New England region has been hit particularly hard. Besides being a blue-collar region, drug trafficking routes run through New England. Representatives from law enforcement believe trafficking has had a major impact on the rates of substance use in the area.
Fortunately, 2018 offered professionals in the medical and rehabilitation fields a glimmer of hope for substance use in Augusta. For the first time in several years, there was a decrease in overdose deaths. In fact, rates decreased by 4%. It’s important to note, though, that the 2018 numbers were still four times higher than those in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Several cities and states have made the effort to reign in the number of opioid prescriptions doctors are giving to their patients. This could be why there was a 13.5% decrease in prescription-opioid-involved deaths. There was also a 2% decrease in opioid-involved deaths overall. Heroin-related deaths decreased by 4%, too. The only opioid category that saw an increase was synthetic opioids excluding methadone.
Americans are misusing alcohol and other drugs such as meth, cocaine and marijuana, but when it comes to overdose deaths, opioids are the biggest problem. In fact, they are involved in well over half of overdose deaths. In 2018, 67,367 deaths nationwide were related to an overdose. Nearly 70% of those deaths involved an opioid. It is not uncommon for more than one substance to be found in a patient who has overdosed. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are claiming many lives because of their potency.
Fentanyl in its pharmaceutical form is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is approved as a treatment for severe pain and is estimated to be 50-100 times more potent than morphine. The potency of fentanyl has led to an illicit market for the drug. The illegally made substance is often mixed with cocaine or heroin, which increases its euphoric effects.
Once again, the 2018 statistics could provide a glimmer of hope for the future. In the meantime, those dealing with a substance use disorder should know that there is help readily available in Augusta and other cities. Green Mountain Treatment Center in New Hampshire, for example, is one option for those seeking an inpatient program.
Understanding the Epidemic
To understand what is happening right now, it is important to recognize how things got to this point. The CDC dates the beginning of the overdose epidemic to 1999. The organization monitors:
• Natural opioids, which include morphine and codeine
• Semi-synthetic opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxymorphone
• Methadone, which is categorized as a synthetic opioid
• Synthetic opioids excluding methadone but including tramadol and fentanyl
In the 1990s, there was an increase in opioid misuse that was related in part to the fact that doctors began prescribing the medication to patients in increased numbers. This was the first wave of the opioid-use epidemic. The second wave began in 2010. It involved an increase in heroin use. The beginning of the third wave was in 2013. This is when the medical community saw an unexpected increase in the number of overdose deaths. The main culprit behind this third wave is illicit fentanyl.
The CDC also describes the epidemic as being multi-layered, so greater focus has been placed on prevention. Encouraging a decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions is one example of prevention efforts.
Maine and the National Average
According to data gathered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 67,367 drug overdose deaths in 2018, a 4% decrease from 2017. Of the categories that are monitored by the governmental health agencies, prescription-opioid- and heroin-related deaths saw decreases. Synthetic opioids other than methadone, however, saw an increase.
Maine saw 202 drug overdose deaths that involved an opioid in 2018, which was a decrease from 2017. In 2018, Maine providers wrote 48.1 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. This is below the national average of 51.4 prescriptions.
Since 2016, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)/Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS) have become an increasing concern in the medical field. Medical professionals are finding out that mothers are using opioids while they are pregnant. This is leading to newborns being born and already experiencing withdrawal symptoms. For Maine in 2018, there were 28.3 cases per 1,000 hospital births of NAS/NOWS.
New HIV and hepatitis C cases due to intravenous drug use are on the medical field’s radar, too. In 2017, an estimated 1,576 people in Maine were living with a diagnosed HIV infection. Of that number, 15.3% of male cases and 25.4% of female cases were due to drug use. It is estimated that 7,000 people living in Maine have hepatitis C.
What Maine Leadership Is Doing to Combat the Epidemic
The state leadership of Maine is not in the dark about their residents and the problems they are having with overdoses and substance use disorders. The Office of the Maine Attorney General issued a press release noting that overdose deaths had decreased in 2018, but the epidemic was still persisting. The release highlighted findings of a report compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The report found that:
• 80% of drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid, and a number were believed to have involved a second substance.
• 89% of those drug overdose deaths were believed to be accidental.
• 77% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl.
In 2018, the Maine Attorney General acknowledged these facts about the deaths in 2017:
• They involved at least two substances, and most cases averaged three.
• 31% of the overdose victims had naloxone (NARCAN) in their blood, which means that attempts to reverse the overdose had been made.
• 247 deaths involved fentanyl, which prompted the Attorney General to state that the substance had invaded Maine.
The state, therefore, has taken several actions. This includes putting together programs and initiatives such as:
• Maine SEOW Dashboard
• Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS)
• Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)
• Treatment Data System (TDS)
There are several goals that these programs are trying to accomplish. Two of them are monitoring trends and advancing prevention efforts. The SEOW Dashboard, for example, is a tool developed for communities like Augusta. It monitors substance use, mental health and gambling. The Prescription Monitoring Program is a database of all opioid prescriptions. Its purpose is to prevent misuse.
The Maine Opiate Collaborative was put together in 2015 after the governor held a summit to address the heroin/opioid epidemic in Maine. The summit’s focus was on opioid supply, demand and addiction issues.
Why Is It Important to Spot the Trends?
The leadership of the state of Maine is getting a grip on the overdose epidemic for several reasons. First and foremost, they had to do right by their residents. Next is the cost of substance use disorders. In 2016, Dr. Sorg released a report on the cost of alcohol and drug abuse in Maine.
It was found that the cost of the misuse in 2010 was over $1.4 billion, a 56.2% increase from 2005. Treatment only made up 3.4% of the cost, and over 24% of the cost was related to mortality. The cost of addiction weighs heavily on communities, especially smaller ones like Augusta. In particular, drug-related crime and loss of work productivity have a direct negative impact on the local economy.
Focusing on Youth
A greater emphasis is being placed on monitoring substance use disorder among youth. In Maine, like other areas of the country, high school students are drinking, smoking and misusing prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in 2017 found that:
• 9% of high school students in Maine had smoked at least one cigarette in the last 30 days.
• 16% of high school students in Maine had used electronic vapor products.
• 22% of Maine high school students had a drink in the last 30 days.
• 32% of Maine high school students had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
• 3% of Maine youth ages 12-17 had misused pain relievers.
The potency of opioids, even when they are prescribed to a patient by a doctor they trust, can lead to addiction. When the pharmaceutical companies first lobbied the medical community to begin prescribing the new opioids in the 1990s, doctors questioned their representatives. However, they gave in to the pressure and began to prescribe the drugs in greater numbers.
Now that the medical community understands what is happening to Americans who consume prescription opioids as well as the illicit ones, they know that overcoming this addiction is not simple. So, prevention has gained more steam. Prevention efforts focus largely on improving and regulating opioid prescribing.
The CDC has revised their prescription guidelines. To prevent opioid use disorder, the CDC recommends the enactment of state laws, prescription drug monitoring programs and quality improvement programs, among other steps.
To reverse overdoses, first responders have received training. Access to naloxone has also been expanded. Then, there is the treatment component, which plays a huge role in helping reduce the rates of substance use disorder.
The CDC recommends the expansion of evidence-based treatments as well as medication-assisted therapy. These are offered in outpatient and inpatient settings. Green Mountain Treatment Center offers a treatment program that can help those living with a substance use disorder get on the road to recovery. When you’re ready to seek assistance, a private rehab center is a worthwhile option. Green Mountain Treatment Center is purposely situated in a secluded area of New Hampshire. It provides a therapeutic setting so that patients can focus on getting better instead of being stressed out by their surroundings.
A 30-day program begins with medical detox. You cannot get on the road to recovery until the substance has left your body. Medical detox at a rehab center is recommended because a patient cannot predict how intense their withdrawal symptoms are going to be. Several factors determine the intensity, and everyone experiences this phase a little differently from the next person.
During intake, you are asked several questions. The staff needs your medical history, details about your substance use disorder and other relevant information so that the best personalized program can be tailored to your needs. Some patients become hooked on drugs because they are trying to cope with trauma. Others get hooked because they were injured on the job and required a strong painkiller. Whatever the case may be, treatment is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.
Your program might be built around a 12-step curriculum. Then, it is rounded out with experiential therapy and holistic treatments. At Green Mountain Treatment Center, the rehab program’s purpose is to help a patient re-learn how to live in a sober manner and, ultimately, achieve lifelong recovery. Getting help is easier today than ever before. Simply stop by our center or give us a call.