Illicit and prescription drug misuse as reported to the Maine Diversion Alert Programedit
Background: The opioid epidemic is rapidly evolving and new tools are needed to combat drug abuse. The Maine Diversion Alert Program (DAP) is an informational resource that facilitates communication about drug arrests between the criminal justice and healthcare fields. The objectives of this report were to: (1) describe the illegal and prescription pharmaceuticals reported to the DAP; (2) determine if the drugs implicated in arrests changed from the first to latter half of 2016; (3) identify the demographic and other characteristics of arrestees; and (4) outline the strengths and limitations of the DAP for other areas considering implementing similar programs. Methods: The arrests (N = 2,368, 31.4% female, mean age = 33.7, SD = 9.9, Min = 18, Max = 71.5) reported to the DAP were examined. Drugs were classified by Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule (I–V, non-controlled prescription) and into families (opioids, stimulants, sedatives, hallucinogens, and other). A comparison between the first and second half of 2016 and arrest by county was completed. Results: Arrests involved 2,957 substances (drugs and paraphernalia). Most arrests (80.6%) involved a single drug. One-third (33.2%) of arrests involved illicit drugs (i.e. Schedule I) and three-fifths (59.8%) were for controlled prescription medical drugs (i.e. Schedule II–V), and a minority (6.8%) involved non-controlled prescription drugs (e.g. gabapentin, bupropion). Opioids (e.g. heroin, buprenorphine, and oxycodone) accounted for over-half (51.3%) of arrests followed by stimulants (29.0%, e.g. cocaine), and sedatives (7.6%). Arrests for oxycodone significantly decreased (51.9%) and alprazolam increased (89.3%) during 2016. Arrestees for non-controlled prescription drugs were older than arrestees for illegal drugs. Arrests, correcting for population, were most common in more urban (e.g. Androscoggin and Cumberland) counties. Conclusions: Opioids (illicit and prescription) account for over half of all arrests. However, arrests for oxycodone decreased while arrests for benzodiazepines, and especially alprazolam, increased in 2016. The DAP is a novel source of information for healthcare decisions and can empirically inform law enforcement about drug misuse and addiction.