Heroin

Jack Rodolico

It’s no secret drugs like OxyContin and hydromorphone are highly addictive.

The real question is this: do drug companies downplay how addictive they are while marketing the medicine to doctors?

New Hampshire’s Attorney General Joe Foster suspects false marketing of legal pills has led to abuse of illicit drugs like heroin. That’s why he subpoenaed the nation’s largest manufacturers of prescription painkillers.

  The latest numbers from the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show that at least 161 people have fatally overdosed so far in 2016.

Officials are anticipating that those numbers will continue to rise in the months ahead, and the state is projecting at least 494 overdose deaths by the end of the year. 

C. Zars / NHPR

The medication “Vivitrol” is gaining traction as a tool in the fight against drug addiction. It’s a once-a-month injection that was approved as a treatment for opioid and alcohol users in 2010. A psychiatric hospital in Hampstead now prescribes the medication, and patients seem to show signs of improvement.

Emily Corwin for NHPR

In Nashua on Wednesday, Republican Ted Gatsas announced his plan to fight opiate addiction across the state. In front of city hall, Gatsas told a small gathering of reporters the heroin crisis needs leadership, saying, "My first act as Governor would be to declare this fentanyl heroin epidemic is a public health emergency." 

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

   

All six New England governors say fighting the social stigma associated with addiction is key to battling the opioid crisis raging across the region, claiming thousands of lives.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker participated at the Harvard Medical School forum Tuesday with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Carol Robidoux

  A Nashua man is the latest New Hampshire resident to be held criminally liable for the overdose death of another person as part of an aggressive effort by the attorney general's office to hold drug dealers responsible for what they sell.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kevin Manchester is facing a 'death resulting' charge in the January overdose death of Michelle MacLeod. The charge carries up to a life sentence, just like murder. 

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Lawmakers in Congress appear to be finding some common ground when it comes to dealing with the heroin and opioid addiction crisis.

But how much money will actually be put toward funding treatment and prevention programs remains a sticking point.

 New Hampshire residents struggling with heroin addiction and other substance use disorders will soon be able to call a state hotline for help.

Gov. Maggie Hassan announced the hotline Tuesday at the opening of a summit on substance abuse. She says the 24-hour crisis hotline will start up later this week. The number has not been provided yet.

More than 800 people from health care, law enforcement, education and other fields are attending the conference in Manchester devoted to the state's rising drug crisis. More than 400 people died of drug overdoses last year.

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Hundreds of New Hampshire professionals from health care, law enforcement, education and other fields are gathering in Manchester for the Governor's Summit on Substance Misuse.

Tuesday's daylong conference is aimed at encouraging participants to reach beyond their professions and learn from their peers in other areas to address a growing crisis of heroin addiction and other substance use disorders in the state.

www.massfiretrucks.com

 

New Hampshire's biggest city is opening its firehouse doors to drug addicts in a program that allows them to seek treatment in an effort to avert overdoses.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas announced the program Wednesday and said he hopes it can be a model for other cities on the front lines of the state's opioid crisis. Dubbed Safe Station, the program will allow addicts to visit any of 10 firehouses that are open around-the-clock. Addicts will then be put in touch with experts who can help them with treatment options.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Manchester accounted for nearly a quarter of the fatal drug overdoses reported across New Hampshire last year, according to newly released data from the medical examiner’s office.

The state's largest city saw 106 overdoses last year, out of a statewide total of 433.

Prescribing Opioids During an Addiction Epidemic

Apr 14, 2016
Charles Williams / Flickr/CC

State lawmakers, doctors, and others in the medical profession have been hammering out new guidelines for prescribing these drugs to tackle the issue of over-use and alleviate the addiction crisis. We'll get the latest on this discussion and also find out how New Hampshire's approach compares with other states.

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  One of Boston's top hospitals is seeing an increasing number of drug abusers shoot up on its property, a tactic experts say opioid addicts hope will save them from lethal overdoses. 

 

School officials are defending their decision not to notify parents and students after the dean of students at a New Hampshire public high school was arrested at the school and charged with heroin possession in February.

The Concord Monitor reports that 36-year-old Rekha Luther of Manchester was arrested at Pembroke Academy on Feb. 17 and charged with four felony counts of possession drugs, including heroin and steroids.

The newspaper reports that she and her lawyer did not return calls seeking comment.

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The battle lines on the fight over the future of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion are well-defined as the issue comes up for a vote in the state Senate tomorrow.

On Wednesday’s episode of The Exchange, State Sens. Jeb Bradley and Andy Sanborn — a vocal proponent and opponent of the expansion, respectively — sparred over a number of elements of the program, including its effects on the state's drug crisis.

When Eddie Sawyer called his former partner Eileen Shea and told her he was on a waitlist to get into the Friendship House, northern New Hampshire’s only residential treatment facility, she offered to take him to the hospital to try to detox off heroin while he waited for a bed. But Shea knew there was no guarantee the hospital would admit Sawyer.

New Hampshire Senate
Allegra Boverman / NHPR

The state Senate is taking up a bill that would give roughly $3 million in additional funding to various substance abuse and addiction related programs.

The upper chamber is poised to vote on a bill including the money Thursday. 

Todd Huffman / Flickr/CC

Designed to reduce the spread of disease by distributing clean needles to drug users, needle exchange programs can also provide outreach and referral for treatment.  Now, a bill in the legislature would allow these centers in New Hampshire. And while there's general support, concerns include whether to decriminalize trace amounts of heroin.

eric molina / Flickr/CC

We're checking in on the state's response to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Dirty Bunny via Flickr/CreativeCommons

 

New Hampshire would join the rest of the New England in making it easier for addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones under a bill being heard by a House committee.

Under current law, hypodermic needles and syringes can only be dispensed by pharmacists, and possessing a used syringe with heroin residue on it is a felony.

At least five men and five women have died of drug overdoses in New Hampshire so far in 2016, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The actual number of drug deaths this year could be higher, as an additional 86 possible overdose cases are still awaiting toxicology. It can take several months for the state to fully review a suspected overdose to confirm the cause of death.

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s investigation into marketing practices by large pharmaceutical companies hit a roadblock this week. The Attorney General wants to know if those companies have been deceptively marketing opioids - drugs that have been diverted in mass quantities to fuel addictions and overdoses. But a court order now slows down that process.

Addressing N.H.'s Addiction Counselor Shortage

Mar 1, 2016
Phoenix House Academy of Dublin / Flickr/CC

As overdose deaths skyrocket,  there's been a statewide call for more access to drug treatment, and more funding for it.  But treatment centers are scrambling to find and keep enough trained staff to meet the demand.  Chronic issues, such as low pay and bureaucracy add to the burden of helping a patient through recovery.

At least three people have died from drug overdoses so far this year in New Hampshire, but the state medical examiner's office is awaiting toxicology results on another 60 cases that have come into its lab this year.

According to the most recent data, at least 420 people died from drug overdoses in 2015 — that figure is more than double what it was two years ago.

A new Massachusetts law criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl is taking effect.

The law creates the crime of trafficking in fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams with punishment of up to 20 years in state prison. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is trying to figure out if the state's largest insurance companies are covering opioid treatment the way the law requires.

The preliminary findings of the department's ongoing investigation are inconclusive.

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A federal bill that provides money for addiction treatment and drug prevention has passed its first hurdle. Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen co-sponsored the legislation. 

The bill calls for additional dollars for a number of areas including treatment for people battling addiction while in prison, drug prevention efforts in schools, and expanding access to the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure by a unanimous vote. But how much of the bill’s $70 million would go to New Hampshire is unknown.

As state officials feared, drug overdose deaths rose significantly in New Hampshire last year, to well over 400 cases.

The latest data from the state's medical examiner show that 414 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 326 in 2014 and 192 the year before.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday passed three bills aimed at combating the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

The measures include the creation of a state drug court program, improvements to the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, the addition of more than $2 million to help police combat the drug epidemic, and money to buy 27 additional state police cruisers. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Senate

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard joined New Hampshire's two U.S. Senators in Washington Wednesday to testify on a bill aimed at combating the heroin epidemic.

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