Governor Paul LePage and Public Safety Commissioner John Morris met with police chiefs and other officials in Westbrook to discuss the growing heroin problem in Maine. In the past, prescription drugs have been the number one drug of choice for abusers in the State. Lately, however, the Governor is saying that heroin is beginning to take over as the most commonly abused drug.
The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) had increased their efforts to stop prescription drug abuse and is just begging to see progress as hospitalization for prescription drug abuse numbers go down.
MDEA Director Roy McKinney said efforts at stopping prescription drug diversion – including by doctors – have reduced the availability of drugs such as oxycodone, driving up their prices. Heroin, meanwhile, is as cheap as it has been in years. A 30 milligram OxyContin tablet used to cost $30 and now can go for $55, he said.
This talk comes on the heels of an announcement that Congress is planning on reducing federal funding for the MDEA. This leads some people to become skeptical of how new the heroin problem in Maine really is. Police were not able to provide any statistics that would support this other than mentioning an increase in heroin found during drug busts and a report of increased hospitalization of heroin abusers in the last year.
Governor LePage also recently spoke out about the need for more MDEA funding to fight the prescription drug abuse problem. It seems more attention is trying to be raised in order to prevent cuts in federal funding. The one thing that they are not doing is coming up with ways to fund the MDEA efforts if the cuts are made. At the Westbrook meeting it was reported that “There is currently no money in the biennial budget to offset a cut in federal funds, officials said.”