A New Tool to Tackle the Opioid Epidemic: Description, Utility, and Results from the Maine Diversion Alert Program


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Study Objective: The opioid epidemic continues to impact the United States, and new strategies are needed to combat this epidemic. The objective of this study was to analyze 2015 drug arrest data from Maine’s Diversion Alert (DA) program (diversionalert.org), compare arrest data between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016, and provide an analysis of the sex differences in the arrests as well as information about DA use. Study Design: This was a population‐based descriptive study using data from the Maine DA program. The study population consisted of persons arrested for prescription, nonprescription, or illicit drugs. Data Source: DA database. Measurements and Main Results: The DA program addresses Maine’s prescription drug abuse epidemic with innovative resources that provide access to drug arrest data for health care providers to identify and respond to patients at risk for overdose, those engaged in illegal prescription drug distribution, and those who need treatment. Drug arrest data from 2015 (2723 arrests) and the first quarter of 2016 (788 arrests) were compared and analyzed. The drugs implicated in the arrests were organized by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedule category and whether they were pharmaceuticals (synthesized and distributed by a pharmaceutical company) or nonpharmaceuticals (grown or synthesized in clandestine laboratories). Most arrests were for possession (64.5%) followed by trafficking (23.8%). Heroin was listed in more than three‐quarters (76.4%) of the Schedule I arrests, followed by marijuana (11.7%) and “bath salts” (6.3%). Cocaine and crack cocaine were implicated in almost half (46.7%) of the Schedule II arrests, followed by oxycodone (21.0%) and methamphetamine/amphetamine (15.8%). Buprenorphine was responsible for almost all (96.7%) of the Schedule III arrests. The benzodiazepines alprazolam (34.3%), clonazepam (33.8%), diazepam (11.9%), and lorazepam (8.5%) were listed in the preponderance of the Schedule IV arrests. Arrests increased in 2016 by 49.2% for heroin (p<0.01) and 170.0% for methamphetamine (p≤0.0005) relative to 2015. Arrests for trafficking increased by 42.9% (p<0.05). Males outnumbered females 2:1 in DA. Schedule IV agents accounted for only 6.8% of arrests for males versus 11.5% for females (p≤0.0001). Conversely, Schedule I agents were implicated in 33.0% of arrests for males versus only 27.3% for females (p<0.005). Conclusion: DA is an important tool for providing timely information for health care providers regarding individuals with a history of past misuse of psychotherapeutic agents, particularly opioids and stimulants.

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