Three hundred seventy-eight deaths due to drug overdose were confirmed in the state of Maine in 2016, an all-time high and a 39 percent increase from 2015, which previously held the record, according to a release by the state Attorney General’s Office on February 2. 

Opioid drugs were responsible for the majority of deaths. One hundred twenty-three deaths were attributed to heroin or morphine and 195 were attributed to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, according to data from the University of Maine-Orono. While heroin deaths only increased by 15 percent since 2015, fentanyl deaths increased by 127 percent in 2016. Fentanyl is a schedule-II prescription drug that is between 50 and 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Last Thursday, the Maine State Legislature voted unanimously to create a task force to address the opioid crisis. The panel is expected to come up with recommendations for the legislature by April 30. 

Harriet Fisher ’17 spent last summer mapping arrests in Maine as part of the Gibbons Summer Research Program. She found that many arrests across the state were due to possession, trafficking or consumption of opioids. 

“[The opioid epidemic] is so omnipresent in Maine,” Fisher said. “I realized it cut across so many different demographics in Maine. You can see in the maps that it is really is all over the state, but … it isn’t something you see a lot at Bowdoin.”