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Portland police issue warning after city sees 5 fatal overdoses in 11 days

"The spike in overdoses is troubling and at this time cannot definitely be linked to one specific substance."

Portland, ME 10/3/02 Globe Staff Photo/Michele McDonald The sun sets on downtown Portland, Maine, looking down on Fore Street. The city has has been reinvigorated in the past decade with new hotels, restaurants and shops. For travel story about a good place to get a tattoo. outtake Michele McDonald / Boston Globe, File

Police in Portland, Maine, are issuing a warning to the public as the department investigates five fatal overdoses that occurred in the city in a span of 11 days.

“This is a concerning spike we felt necessary to advise the public about so that users and families know what resources and help are available to them,” Portland Police Chief Frank Clark said in a statement Thursday. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement, public health, and prevention partners in hopes of turning the tide on this epidemic.”

The victims in the overdoses were a 49-year-old female, 22-year-old male, 24-year-old male, 35-year-old female, and another 24-year-old male, according to Portland police. One of the deaths was an intentional overdose, and at least two of the fatalities are believed to have been caused by opioids.

The department said that since Jan. 2, Portland police have responded to 11 overdoses, nine of which are believed to be from the use of opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl. Two of the cases are believed to be from methamphetamine and synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as spice.

“The spike in overdoses is troubling and at this time cannot definitely be linked to one specific substance,” the department said. 

In five of the non-fatal overdoses, the opioid overdose-reversal drug, naloxone or Narcan, was administered either by first responders or “laypeople,” police said. 

Lieutenant Robert Martin told Boston.com on Monday that there have been three overdoses — one from opiates, one from methamphetamine, and one from LSD — in the city since the press release was issued Thursday, but no fatalities. 

“If you or someone you know is using opioids, please familiarize yourself with the signs of an opioid-related overdose,” the department said. “Signs include: unresponsiveness, blue lips and/or fingernails, slow or no heartbeat, slow or no breathing, pale/clammy skin, pinpoint pupils. If you suspect an overdose, please call 911 immediately.”

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A community training and distribution of Narcan will be held in Portland on Wednesday at the India Street Public Health Center. 

Between 2008 and 2018, there were 318 deaths attributed to overdoses in Portland, according to police. In the first nine months of 2019, 277 people died of overdoses in Maine, the Portland Press Herald reports, indicating that the state is on track to see an increase from the 354 fatal overdoses from 2018.  

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