Opioids

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. 

NHPR Staff

New Hampshire will spend $100,000 to hire a law firm to investigate whether drug makers have marketed opioids in a deceptive fashion. New Hampshire's Executive Council voted unanimously to allow the Attorney General's office to hire the Washington law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll.

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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.

When it comes to understanding heroin and opioid deaths, data matters. But across the country, medical examiners and coroners vary widely in just how much information they provide on death certificates.

Courtney Griffin was addicted to heroin and ready to get help. She packed up her things, and her mom drove her to a residential treatment facility about an hour from their home in New Hampshire. There was a bed waiting for her.

Michael Burghardt couldn't sleep. His legs were shaking, his bones ached and he couldn't stop throwing up.

Burghardt was in the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, N.H. This was his 11th stay at the jail in the last 12 years. There had been charges for driving without a license, and arguments where the police were called. This time, Burghardt was in after an arrest for transporting drugs in a motor vehicle.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

This is the first week inmates about to be released from prison in New Hampshire can receive the substance abuse medication Vivitrol.

The program is designed to reduce re-offenses and drug overdoses after release.

DOC deputy commissioner Helen Hanks says the prison will give inmates a single dose of Vivitrol seven days before they return to the community. Then, Hanks says, “We connect them with a primary care provider so that we continue that continuity of care model to help them have the best success they can.”

 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.

Welcome to opioid week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That’s what House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has dubbed it. Members of Congress received word late last week, as they wrapped up their brief recess, that opiate-related legislation will go to the House floor this week. Details are still emerging; but this week promises to be a major step for the work of New England lawmakers on the issue.

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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.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The first addiction recovery center in New Hampshire's capital city is already helping patients after opening its doors Monday morning.  Hope for New Hampshire Recovery offers peer-to-peer support for people battling  addiction.

Jeff Pearson became addicted to heroin more than 30 years ago. Along the way, he racked up 80 drug-related offenses, went to prison five times and made dozens of rehab attempts, including several years standing in line for his daily dose of methadone.

In January, Pearson received a prescription for Suboxone, a medication that suppresses the symptoms of withdrawal. Four months later, he’s still surprised he’s not foraging for drugs every day, like he did for so many years.

What We Know - And Don't Know - About Suboxone

May 4, 2016

Talk to people on the front lines of New Hampshire’s opioid crisis, and most of them will agree that addiction is a chronic disease. Yet there is still resistance to using medication to treat it.

Tym Rourke, who chairs the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, says that some substance-abuse programs refuse to use methadone or Suboxone.

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After much debate, the New Hampshire Senate Thursday voted to keep the state’s so-called drug forfeiture fund alive.

Under current law money or assets seized in a criminal drug bust are put into a special fund used to combat future drug crimes. 

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CVS Health is the latest pharmacy chain to offer the overdose reversal drug naloxone, known commonly as Narcan, at its stores in New Hampshire. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate today will once again tackle a handful of bills geared at the state’s opioid crisis. Many of the proposals being related to illegal drug use.

A 26-year-old Portsmouth woman was sentenced to serve between eight and 20 years in prison for selling the fatal dose of drugs that caused a Maine man to overdose in 2015.

NH1.com reports Amanda Burgess was sentenced Tuesday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to charges of supplying fentanyl with death resulting.

Prosecutors say Burgess sold a $40 dose of the synthetic opiate to 27-year-old Joseph Cahill, who was found dead on June 15, 2015. Burgess, a known heroin dealer, fled New Hampshire after the York, Maine man died.

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U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice and New Hampshire’s Attorney General, Joe Foster, will work together to prosecute drug overdoses as crime scenes. The goal is to charge drug dealers with homicide, when an overdose death can be linked to a drug sale. 

The collaboration will expand resources for state prosecutors and allow New Hampshire drug dealers to be charged under federal law, which has tougher penalties for drug crimes.

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.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Last year saw more drug overdose deaths than ever before in New Hampshire.

So far in 2016, the state’s confirmed at least 48 deaths, with another 89 potential cases on top of that — officials are waiting for more toxicology reports to add those into the total.

The death toll, however, only tells part of the story of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

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The New Hampshire House killed a bill Wednesday to fund a program designed to teach substance abuse prevention in high schools.

HOPE, which stands for Heroin and Opiate Prevention Education, is run by Plymouth State University and offers peer to peer prevention. But not every school in the state participates.

Under the measure, roughly $51,000 would be available to public and charter high schools in the state who want to join the program.

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The New Hampshire House on Wednesday backed a bill calling for an additional $5 million to help combat the state’s current opioid crisis.

Under the measure, $3, million will go to treatment services while $2 million will help to provide housing for those battling an addiction. It also includes money to hire a state attorney to prosecute drug cases.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire House Wednesday backed a measure that would allow the state Division of Children, Youth and Families to investigate parents suspected of having an opioid dependence. 

As written, the bill would exempt parents currently involved in treatment or actively seeking treatment.  

Democrat Skip Berrien of Exeter said this bill would ensure that DCYF can offer services before problems escalate.

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Heroin pills. That’s how Andrew Kolodny describes oxycodone, one of the most widely prescribed – and abused – narcotic painkillers in the U.S. 

Kolodny is executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He joined The Exchange this week to discuss the opioid crisis – its origins and how states, including New Hampshire, are trying to overcome it.

Prescribing Opioids During an Addiction Epidemic

Apr 14, 2016
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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. 

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/">Mike Cophlan</a>

  Health practitioners across the state say the drug methadone should be available behind bars – especially to patients already on the medication. But jails and prisons in New Hampshire do not offer the drug to recovering addicts, many of whom rely on it to stay sober.    


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Thirty-eight-year old James Vara is about to become the state's so-called Drug Czar. For another few weeks, he'll be wrapping up his work as a Senior Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, but when he starts his new position, he'll be taking a leading role in solving a problem that killed more than four hundred people in New Hampshire last year: the state's opiate addiction crisis.

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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.

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Law enforcement officials are pushing back against a bill that allows people to drop off illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, and drug paraphernalia at police stations.

Currently police stations accept unused prescription drugs in designed drop boxes.

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