Maine is at the burning core of a nationwide heroin epidemic, what the Washington Post calls “the perverse outcome of a well-intentioned drive to save Americans from the last drug craze, a widespread hunger for heroin's chemical cousin, prescription opiate pills such as Oxycontin.” The Post tells the story of a Maine man who died of a heroin overdose at 29. Heroin, which is cheap, plentiful and more potent than ever, is killing people at record rates. Across the U.S., deaths from heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled in the decade ending in 2013, says a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Maine, deaths from heroin overdoses ballooned from seven in 2010 to 57 last year. Two-thirds of the victims were adults in their 20s and 30s. In 2012, heroin accounted for 8 percent of the caseload for Maine's Drug Crimes Task Force; last year, it jumped to 32 percent. In Portland, the number of addicts served by the needle exchange nearly doubled in just two years. Today in Maine, a single tablet of Oxycontin often costs $50; addicts can find a single-dose packet of heroin for as little as $10.