Maine heroin deaths up 300 percent in three years

BY newsdesk  September 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM EDT

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Indabelle

Maine, “the way life should be”? Harper’s Index for October highlights a gloomy incidence for the “vacationland” state. The number of people in the state who have died from a heroin overdose each year since 2011 has increased by 300 percent, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Chronicling the rise in heroin use throughout New England, the New York Times this summer connected heroin use to the widespread abuse of prescription painkillers — heroin gateway drugs.

Just this month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting investigated the theft of prescription drugs from Maine pharmacies. Pharmacy employees, they found, were responsible for one-third of those thefts. But most of those employees said they were stealing the drugs for their own use, not for distribution. So what gives?

The Times offers another explanation:

Yet the rise in heroin abuse here predated the restrictions on painkillers, leading some officials to blame the simple law of supply and demand. Distributors in New York see a wide-open market in northern New England, where law enforcement can be spotty and users are willing to pay premium prices. A $6 bag of heroin in New York City fetches $10 in southern New England but up to $30 or $40 in northern New England, law enforcement officials said. The dealer gets a tremendous profit margin, while the addict pays half of what he might have to shell out for a prescription painkiller.

H/T Simone Pathe