December 2022 Monthly Overdose Report

Download the entire PDF report here: Maine Monthly Overdose Report for December 2022

The monthly overdose report, funded jointly by the Maine Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Behavioral Health, provides an overview of statistics regarding suspected and confirmed fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses in Maine during each month. Data for the report is collected at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner and as part of the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative. Year-to-date numbers will be updated with each new monthly report, as cases are finalized, and their overdose status is confirmed or ruled out. The totals are expected to shift as this evolution occurs. In addition, due to the smaller sample size in any given month, totals are expected to fluctuate due to the effects of random variation.

Whereas the overall number of overdose deaths is a critical indicator of individual and societal stress, this metric itself can be quite resistant to public policy interventions due to its complexity. Overdose fatalities occur because of multiple unique and interacting factors such as underlying medical conditions and drug lethality. For that reason, this monthly report will develop ways to monitor components that can be directly affected by specific public health education and harm reduction interventions. For example, reports will be given on the number of decedents that had access to naloxone and the number who were alone while using.

Overview: Composite total of fatal and nonfatal overdoses

During December, the proportion of fatal overdoses averaged 8.1% of total overdoses. The monthly proportion of 2022 fatalities has fluctuated, however, including a low of 5.1% in May 2022 and a high of 8.9% in November. So far for 2022, the total number of overdoses January – December is 4.5% higher than during January – December 2021 (13.5% fatal and 3.8% nonfatal). During the period January – December 2022, fatal overdoses comprised 7.1% of all overdoses, slightly higher than the 6.5% for 2021.

From January 2022 to December 2022, there were an estimated 10,110 fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses statewide, of which 716 (7.1%) were suspected and confirmed fatal overdoses. The remaining 9,394 (92.9%) were nonfatal overdoses: 4,372 (43.2%) emergency department visits; 2,736 (27.1%) EMS patents who were not transported to the emergency room, 2,213 (21.9%) reversals reported by community members to the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative, and an estimated 73 (0.7%) law enforcement reversals without EMS present. There were also an unknown number of nonfatal overdoses in which 911 was not called and no reversal report was provided to the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative.

Fatal OverdosesEmergency Department
EMS Not Transported
to the ED Nonfatal
Community Reversals
Law Enforcement
Without EMS 
Nonfatal (estimated)
Total Overdoses
January ’215427016512718634
February ’21412771201005543
March ’215832917715615735
April ’21463341911366713
May ’21474091651003724
June ’215441122318911888
July ’214448222716720940
August ’215042823722212949
September ’215947323727671,052
October ’216538325020817923
November ’216130822619510800
December ’21523442011764777
2021 Total6314,4482,4192,0521289,678
2021 Total %6.5%46.0%25.0%21.2%1.3%100%
January ’22442962061781725
February ’22483331851534723
March ’22654572012027932
April ’22592901781897723
May ’224640224818612894
June ’226648225017710985
July ’22643482871704873
August ’22613852712427966
September ’22554582561406915
October ’22652832371646755
November ’22682862052025766
December ’22753522122104853
2022 Total7164,3722,7362,2137310,110
2022 Total %7.1%43.2%27.1%21.9%0.7%100%
*Emergency department, EMS Not Transported, Community Reversals, and Law Enforcement Without EMS are nonfatal overdoses. Fatal overdoses in those categories have been removed.

Number of suspected and confirmed fatal overdoses

Fatal Drug Overdoses in Maine December 2022

Fatal Drug Overdoses in Maine January – December 2022

During 2022, the proportion of fatal overdoses averaged 7.1% of total overdoses. From January to December 2022 there was a total 716 fatal drug overdoses consisting of 596 confirmed and 120 suspected drug deaths. The graph below shows the considerable monthly fluctuation since January 2020. Although the average since 2020 is 51, the range extends from 33 (October 2020) to 75 (December 2022). The proportion of fatal to nonfatal overdoses decreased from 8.5% to 6.7% between January and December of 2021. During 2022, the monthly proportions fluctuated from a low of 5.1% in May and 8.9% in November. The proportion of fatalities in January – December 2022 (716) is 13.5% higher than 2021 (631). For more information regarding definitions of fatal overdoses, including data collected and case completion timelines see the full report.

Distribution of drug deaths by Maine county

The following table shows the frequency distribution of deaths at the county level. The monthly 2022 totals can be compared either to the percent of the census population on the far left or the percent of all Maine drug deaths for 2019, 2020, 2021 and January-December 2022. Caution must be exercised with these small numbers. They are likely to fluctuate randomly, without any significant statistical meaning.

The cumulative January-December 2022 percentages of deaths in most counties fall within plus or minus 0 to 1 percentage points of the 2020 census distribution. Cumberland County is 4 percentage points lower, Sagadahoc County and York County are 2 percentage points lower than the 2020 census proportion in 2022. Androscoggin County and Aroostook County are 2 percentage points higher and Penobscot County is 4 percentage points higher than the 2020 census proportion.

County% of 2020
Census Population
Jan-Dec 2020

Jan-Dec 2021
Jan-Dec 2022
Est. N=716
Dec 2022
Androscoggin8%33…….(9%)52.(10%)69…..(11%)72 (10%)9 (12%)
Aroostook5%14…….(4%)17(3%)39……(6%)48 (7%)5 (7%)
Cumberland22%100…..(26%)97.(19%)114….(28%)130 (18%)10 (13%)
Franklin2%5……..(1%)8(2%)8…….(1%)14 (2%)1 (3%)
Hancock4%9…….(2%)13(3%)22……(3%)24 (3%)4 (5%)
Kennebec9%42……(11%)49.(10%)64….(10%)55 (8%)5 (7%)
Knox3%7…….(2%)16(3%)11……(2%)20 (3%)3 (4%)
Lincoln3%11…….(3%)9(2%)16……(3%)13 (2%)1 (1%)
Oxford4%9…….(2%)15(3%)28……(4%)36 (5%)5 (7%)
Penobscot11%53…..(14%)94.(19%)106…..(17%)106 (15%)9 (12%)
Piscataquis1%3…….(1%)10(2%)11……(2%)9 (1%)1 (1%)
Sagadahoc3%8……(2%)8….(1%)7……(1%)9 (1%)1 (1%)
Somerset4%16……(4%)13(3%)26…..(4%)35 (5%)2 (3%)
Waldo3%3…….(1%)9(2%)15…..(2%)21 (3%)2 (3%)
Washington2%10……(3%)20..(4%)25…..(4%)23 (3%)4 (5%)
York16%57….(15%)74.(15%)70….(11%)101 (14%)13 (17%)

Race, ethnicity, and other demographic indicators of decedents

During 2022, out of 712 confirmed and suspected fatal overdoses for which race was reported, 663 (93%) of the victims were identified as White, 17 (2%) as Black or African American, 13 (2%) as American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1 (<1%) Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Out of the 699 fatal overdoses for whom ethnicity was reported, 692 (99%) were reported as not Hispanic, and 7 (1%) were identified as Hispanic.

Out of the 714 cases for which military background was reported, 54 (8%) were identified as having a military background.

Prior overdose history was reported for 268 (37%) of the victims.

Of 716 decedents, transient housing status was reported for 81 (11%) of the victims. The largest totals of undomiciled persons (January – December 2022) were found in Cumberland County (31, 38%), and Penobscot County (20, 25%).

Demographic Indicator% of 2020
Census Population
2021 Est.
N=627 Race
N=621 Ethnicity
2022 Est.
N=712 Race
N=699 Ethnicity
Race and Ethnicity
White91%585 (93%)663 (93%)
Black or African American2%21 (3%)17 (2%)
American Indian/Alaska Native1%14 (2%)13 (2%)
Other race,
2+ races combined, non-hispanic
7%7 (1%)12 (2%)
Not Hispanic98%611 (99%)692 (99%)
Hispanic2%10 (2%)7 (1%)
Military Background81 (11%)
Prior Overdose History268 (37%)
Undomiciled/Transient Housing Status81 (11%)
*Table totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Age and sex composition of decedents

The following table displays the age and sex composition* of the monthly fatal overdose population. The cumulative proportion of males has risen from 68% in 2019 to 71% in 2020 and 2021, and to 73% in 2022. The cumulative age distribution in January – December 2022 compared to 2021 shows 2 deaths under 18 in 2021 and 3 deaths in 2022, a 2 percentage point increase in the proportion of those aged 18-39, a 4 percentage point decrease in those aged 40-59, and a 3 percentage point increase in the proportion 60 and above.

% of 2020
Jan-Dec 2020

Jan-Dec 2021
Jan-Dec 2022
Est. N=716
Dec 2022
Est. N=75
Percent Males49%258..(68%)357(71%)451.(71%)525(73%)50 (67%)
Percent under 1819%0….(0%)2(<1%)2..(<1%)3…..(<1%)1 (1%)
Percent 18-3926%171..(45%)213..(42%)247.(39%)293(41%)30 (40%)
Percent 40-5927%175..(46%)235..(47%)316.(50%)330..(46%)32 (43%)
Percent 60+29%33….(9%)54(11%)66..(10%)90…..(13%)12 (16%)
*Systematic gender data are not reported on the death certificate.

Basic incident patterns in fatal overdoses

The following table highlights some event characteristics among suspected and confirmed overdoses. Both EMS and police responded to most fatal overdoses, that is, 75% in 2022. In 2022, law enforcement was more likely to respond to a scene alone (18%) than EMS (6%). The overwhelming majority (95%) of drug overdoses were ruled, or suspected of being, accidental manner of death.

During 2022, 25% of fatal overdose cases had naloxone administered at the scene by EMS, bystanders, or law enforcement. This rate is higher than the 22% of fatal overdose cases in which naloxone was reportedly administered at the scene in 2020, but lower than the 30% recorded in 2021. Although most cases had bystanders present at the scene when first responders arrived, the details about who may have been present at the time of the overdose were usually unclear. However, bystanders, including family and friends, administered naloxone during 11% (82) of the fatal overdoses, often in addition to EMS and/or law enforcement. The 2020 drug death report documents only 4% of victims who had received bystander-administered naloxone and increased to only 9% of victims in 2021.

Based on 577 suspected and confirmed drug death cases with EMS involvement during January – December of 2022, 300 (52%) of victims were already deceased when EMS arrived. In the remaining 277 (48%) cases, resuscitation was attempted either at the scene or in the ambulance during transport to the emergency room. Of those 277 who were still alive when EMS arrived, only 86 (31%) remained alive long enough to be transported but died during transport or at the emergency room and 191 (69%) did not survive to be transported. This is likely due to the high number of cases with fentanyl as a cause of death and individuals using alone. Fentanyl acts more quickly than other opioids and there is less time for victims to be found alive.

Jan-Dec 2020

Jan-Dec 2021
Jan-Dec 2022
Est. N=716
Dec 2022
Est. N=75
Public safety response
……EMS alone28(6%)30….(5%)41….(3%)8 (11%)
……Law enforcement alone107.(21%)104..(16%)129(18%)12 (16%)
……EMS and law enforcement365.(72%)485..(77%)536(75%)51 (68%)
……Private transport to the Emergency. Dept.7….(1%)13…..(2%)5 (7%)
Naloxone administration
Naloxone administration reported at the scene83.(22%)187..(30%)180..(20%)19 (25%)
……Bystander only11(2%)36….(6%)45(6%) 6 (8%)
……Law enforcement only8(2%)22….(3%)31….(4%)3 (4%)
……EMS only55..(11%)84..(13%)52….(7%)6 (8%)
……EMS and law enforcement4(1%)20….(3%)11….(2%)1 (1%)
……EMS and bystander8..(2%)15….(2%)26….(4%)2 (3%)
……Law enforcement and bystander0..(0%)5…..(1%)5….(1%)0 (0%)
……EMS, bystander, and law enforcement…….2..(<1%)6….(1%)1 (1%)
……Naloxone administered by unspecified person…….3..(<1%)10(1%)2 (3%)

Key drug categories and combinations causing overdose deaths

The following table displays the overall pattern of the most prominent drug categories in confirmed drug deaths. As expected, for those 642 cases in 2022, nonpharmaceutical fentanyl was the most frequent cause of death mentioned on the death certificate at 507 (79%), this is a slightly higher than the rate in 2021 (77%) and 11 percentage points higher than the rate in 2020 (67%). 

Fentanyl is nearly always found in combination with multiple other drugs. Illicit stimulants have been increasingly mentioned as co-intoxicants of fentanyl during the past several years. Heroin involvement, declining each year, was reported as a cause in 2% (15) of 2022 deaths, 3% (22) of 2021 deaths, compared to 11% (57) in 2020. Methamphetamine was cited as a cause of death in 32% (208) of the overdoses, an increase from 27% in 2021. Cocaine-involved fatalities January – December constituted 30% (191) of cases, an increase from 25% in 2021 and 23% in 2020. Fentanyl is found as a co-intoxicant with cocaine in 82% (156) of 2022 cocaine-involved cases, and as a co-intoxicant with methamphetamine in 82% (170) of methamphetamine-involved cases. Xylazine and nonpharmaceutical tramadol were identified as co-intoxicants with fentanyl for the first time in 2021. Among 642 confirmed deaths in 2022 the number and percent of cases with xylazine listed as an additional cause in fentanyl deaths is 39 (6%) of confirmed overdose deaths, and 9 (1%) with tramadol listed along with fentanyl. 

Cause of death (alone or in
combination with other drugs)
Sample size for complete cases only
Jan-Dec 2020

Jan-Dec 2021
Jan-Dec 2022
*Dec 2022
Nonpharmaceutical opioids
……Fentanyl or fentanyl analogs336.(67%)489..(77%)507..(79%)9 (56%)
……Heroin57..(11%)22….(3%)15….(2%)0 (0%)
Nonpharmaceutical Stimulants
……Cocaine118.(23%)156..(25%)191.(30%)5 (31%)
……Methamphetamine99.(20%)172..(27%)208.(32%)3 (19%)
Pharmaceutical opioids**118.(23%)130..(21%)128..(20%)1 (6%)
Key combinations
……Fentanyl and heroin47(9%)20….(3%)15….(2%)0 (0%)
……Fentanyl and cocaine97.(19%)127..(20%)156..(24%)2 (13%)
……Fentanyl and methamphetamine70.(14%)133..(21%)170..(26%)2 (13%)
……Fentanyl and xylazine0(0%)53….(8%)39….(6%)1 (6%)
……Fentanyl and tramadol0(0%)24….(4%)9….(1%)0 (0%)
*Note, the low N for monthly cases is due to toxicology not being confirmed by the national testing lab before report closeout.
**Nonpharmaceutical tramadol is now being combined with fentanyl in pills and powders for illicit drug use. When found in combination with fentanyl, and in the absence of a known prescription, tramadol is no longer counter as a pharmaceutical opioid.

Highlight of the month regarding substance use disorder public policy response

Governor Mills’ Opioid Response Strategic Action Plan

This month we bring to readers’ attention Governor Mills’ Opioid Response Strategic Action Plan (SAP) which was adopted in September, 2019, updated in 2021 and is undergoing a second update currently.  The goal of the Plan is to reduce the negative health and economic impacts of opioid and other substance use disorders on individuals, families, and communities in Maine and, in so doing, give hope to all persons with a substance use disorder that recovery is not just possible but probable.  Built on the five pillars of Prevention, Treatment, Harm-Reduction, Recovery Support and Leadership, the SAP contains ten priorities, thirty-three strategies and dozens of activities. The Plan also acknowledges the cross-cutting issue of stigma, the value of data and the importance of infrastructure in implementing an effective strategy.  While many of the activities prioritized in 2019 have been completed, many are continuing and the Plan is now being updated to adapt to the changing drug supply and the challenges brought on by the global pandemic.  

In soliciting public input for the updated SAP, a brief survey was sent to thousands of Mainers of whom nearly one thousand responded.  One of the recent monthly opioid response webinars was also dedicated to receiving comments on the current plan. In addition, populations disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic have been invited to offer their suggestions.  Areas already identified for more attention include services for veterans, Maine’s BIPOC population and adolescents. 

The updated plan will also put additional focus on primary prevention.  Too many Maine youth are experiencing traumatic events and too many are experimenting with substances that increase their risk of addiction.  Governor Mills’ in her recent second inaugural address committed to having a substance use prevention program in every school and in every community by the end of 2026.  The five Departments represented in the Children’s Cabinet (Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Corrections and Public Safety) and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future will be responsible for developing initiatives to reach this goal and the work has begun.  The updated Plan is expected to be available before the end of February and it will be posted on websites at and