The New Hampshire Attorney General released information showing that there were more than 400 Granite State residents who died of overdoses in 2015. That number reflects an average of five overdose deaths every week of the year. While this number may seem staggering to some, there are others in New Hampshire who are not surprised.
Thousands of residents have read about the day-to-day deaths that have been occurring across the states, and many hundreds more have been directly affected by these deaths. Throughout the course of 2015, almost every community across Seacoast has had to learn the hard way that no community is immune from the growing opiate crisis.
The deaths have been slowly increasing every year across New Hampshire, with many communities losing a member of their family or close co-worker. There were only 192 deaths by overdose in 2013, a number that jumped to 326 in 2014 and to 400 by 2015. Joseph Foster, the N.H. Attorney General says that opiate abuse is the greatest problem for public health and local law enforcement agencies.
Of particular concern is the opiate drug fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is offered as an alternative to morphine in hospitals. However, when it hits the streets, it can do a lot of damage. Experts state that fentanyl is up to one hundred times more potent than heroin is. Police have been seeing an increase of fentanyl-laced heroin, a mix that is often deadly as it is not advertised.
In 2015, there were 135 fentanyl deaths in N.H, which is over fifty percent of all the opiate-related deaths for the year. When it is factored in with other drugs such as heroin, that number rises to 183, or seventy-percent of all the opiate-related deaths in 2015. These deaths have continued to rise because most users don’t know that they are being given fentanyl-laced produces.
“Users don’t know about the potency of their mix until it is far too late,” states Timothy Desmond, who is the DEA spokesman for the New England bureau.
As the death toll from the opiate epidemic has continued to rise, communities across Seacoast have been stepping up to help. They have been trying to enhance drug education to the public while assisting those who are already addicted in their communities. A group in Newmarket was created, encompassing religious leaders, law enforcement, and citizens. They held to successful forums regarding the opiate epidemic, even going so far as to distribute free doses of naloxone to participants.
In addition, they spearheaded the spread of one of the few Heroin Anonymous meetings in N.H. Seabrook also has an HA program while Hampton, Exeter, and Dover do not but have also taken up the mantle of educating the public and helping addicts. The city leaders of Portsmouth has organized a group that is trying to open a community recovery center in downtown, so they can help recent overdose survivors as they wait for treatment services.
Further, a state task force has released recommendations for tackling the epidemic. Governor Maggie Hassan signed a Good Samaritan bill into law that will provide immunity to those who call law enforcement for others when they are having an overdose. Several other police departments have also made known that they are planning on focusing on dealers instead of drug addicts unless addicts want help.