Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

Once considered a problem confined to large urban areas, the abuse of heroin and other opioids like prescription painkillers has become the number one public-health issue across New Hampshire. Three hundred twenty five people died of drug overdoses in the state last year, a 40 percent increase over 2013. State officials fear 2015 could be worse.

Meanwhile, the state’s underfunded network of treatment facilities can’t handle the number of people seeking help to overcome addiction.

Over the next year, NHPR will explore New Hampshire’s opioid crisis from several angles. A team of reporters will explain how people become addicted,  how prescription drugs like Vicodin and Oxycodone contribute to the rise in heroin use, and how state officials, from the governor to local police, are struggling with an epidemic that now kills more Granite Staters each year than traffic accidents.

Southeastern New Hampshire Services in Dover offers inpatient substance abuse treatment along the same stretch of County Farm Road as a nursing home and a day care center.

 

New Hampshire politicians were quick to praise a new White House initiative to combat heroin use and trafficking.

Amid a spike in heroin use and deaths across the country, the Obama administration on Monday announced $5 million initiative focused on states along the East Coast.

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Laconia police arrested 20 suspects Thursday following a months-long undercover drug investigation.

Fifteen officers made the arrests early in the morning as part of a massive sweep.

Laconia police Chief Chris Adams says those arrested would be held accountable, but would also be offered treatment options.

He says Laconia simply can’t arrest its way out of the heroin epidemic plaguing the city and the state.

Police say the investigation into the suspects included numerous hours of undercover surveillance and controlled buys compiling evidence.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

Presidential candidates usually hit the campaign trail carrying a long list of issues they hope to talk about. But lately, voters in New Hampshire have been forcing an issue of their own into candidates’ stump speeches: the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is urging the Health and Human Services secretary to work with the state to ease costly requirements for some residential drug treatment centers to obtain a health care facility license.

She said recent reports indicate that stringent licensing requirements could force several centers to cut the number of available beds and reduce their ability to serve people dealing with substance abuse issues.

Ayotte said this is a serious concern in light of state's heroin and prescription drug addiction crisis.

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Chris Rocket has been in prison for 19 years. His convictions are for second degree murder and robbery. The crimes, he says, were the result of an alcohol addiction.

His addiction to heroin and prescription drugs?

He got hooked on those while incarcerated at the state prison in Berlin.


www.drug-alcohol.com

  When the Department of Corrections begins offering naltrexone to male inmates sometime this fall, it will put New Hampshire among the more than 20 states that use the drug to treat incarcerated addicts.

New Hampshire, however, will launch the program using the oral version of naltrexone, which studies show faces more barriers to success than the extended-release injections used in other prisons and jails across the country.

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Manchester's police chief is hosting a forum Tuesday night for the public to talk about the city's heroin epidemic.

Chief Nick Willard will be one of seven panel members at the forum at the Radisson Hotel from 5 to 7 p.m.

Manchester police Lt. Brian O’Keefe says drug activity in the city continues to surge at an alarming rate.

“We’re well over I believe 47 deaths since Jan. 1,” he said. “In addition to that, we have responded to probably well over 250 overdose-related calls since Jan. 1. The numbers are staggering in the city.”

Josh Rogers/NHPR

Sen. Andy Sanborn has called for New Hampshire's so-called "drug czar" to resign, two days before a legislative committee will decide whether to extend the official's contract.

Josh Rogers

Jack Wozmak, Gov. Maggie Hassan's pick to spearhead the state's fight against opioid abuse, has been on the job since early February, but this week has amounted to his coming out.  It hasn’t been all – or even mostly -- smooth. 

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New Hampshire’s drug czar has released his initial recommendations on how the state can combat its growing opioid problem.

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is an anti-overdose drug.
Paige Sutherland for NHPR

It was a quiet summer night in June when EMTs in Laconia got the call of a possible overdose at a nearby house.

When they arrived, they were brought to a bedroom with posters on the wall, laundry spread on the floor and a snowboard laid up against a dresser. 

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