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Public Health

Posted on: July 13, 2020

Portland Police Report Spike in Drug Overdoses


There have been seven fatal and 79 non-fatal overdoses since May 1, 2020, with one fatal and nine non-fatal overdoses just in the past week alone. 

“There have historically been upticks in overdoses here in the city at this time of the year,” said Police Chief Frank Clark, “but the recent spike and this number of overdoses and deaths over a 70 day period is disturbing and warrants public awareness and notification.”  

Naloxone (Narcan), an overdose-reversal drug, was administered in most of these non-fatal cases by either first responders or laypeople. The spike in overdoses is troubling and at this time cannot definitively be linked to one specific substance. Between 2008 and 2019, Portland had 373 deaths that were attributed to overdoses. Overdoses in the city in 2019 were up 25% over 2018. 

The City is also deeply concerned about the public health consequences of used hypodermic needles being left on the street, in parks, and other public spaces, accessible to children and others. In the same May 1 to present time period, the City has collected more than 1,000 needles left in and out of sharps containers on public property. There are 20 community accessible sharps containers distributed throughout the city as an alternative option for safe disposal. Click here to view a map of where these containers are located. If anyone comes across discarded needles on public property they are urged to call the City’s Public Works Department at 207-874-8493 or submit a See Click Fix service request so a trained member of City staff can pick up and dispose of the needle(s) properly. 

The City offers a certified Needle Exchange Program, located at 103 India Street. The Exchange offers a one-for-one syringe exchange service as well as referrals to local resources. Any non-certified exchange is cautioned against operating in the city. 

If you or someone you know is using opioids, please familiarize yourself with the signs of an opioid-related overdose. This includes unresponsiveness, blue lips and/or fingernails, slow or no heartbeat, slow or no breathing, pale/clammy skin, and pinpoint pupils. If you suspect an overdose, please call 911 immediately and seek medical attention. Maine law protects people who seek medical assistance in such circumstances from being arrested or prosecuted for certain drug law violations.

Narcan is available at pharmacies without a prescription. Additionally, the Portland Public Health Division offers no-cost Narcan as well as Overdose Recognition & Response training. For more information or to schedule a training and/or obtain Narcan, please contact Zoe Brokos, Substance Use Prevention & Harm Reduction Services Program Coordinator, at or (207) 756-8024.

Unused or expired prescription medication can be safely disposed of 24/7 in the Portland Police Department lobby. The department also staffs a substance use disorder liaison as part of its Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program (LEAAP). For more information on this outreach program:   

For more information on youth substance use prevention, please contact Janet Dosseva at (207) 874-8452 or

For more information on the Overdose Prevention Project:

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