Cheaper, more available than prescription drugs, heroin addiction now an 'epidemic' says DHHS
CONCORD -- Heroin use across the state is reach epidemic proportions, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services (BDAS).
The state agency, in an issues brief titled, "Heroin in New Hampshire: A Dangerous Resurgence," says the increase may be due in part to people addicted to pain medication buying heroin because it is cheap and easily accessible.
“We believe there are several factors that may contribute to the use of heroin,” said BDAS Director Joe Harding. “Some individuals become addicted to prescription pain medication after having been prescribed these medications to manage pain. Some individuals who have misused prescription drugs may turn to heroin because it is cheaper and more easily accessible.
"Regardless of the reason, heroin is a dangerous and highly addictive drug, and because it is a street drug it might have added harmful contaminated ingredients that make it even more dangerous and lethal, as witnessed by the recent rash of heroin related overdose deaths here in New Hampshire and across the country.”
The N.H. Attorney General and commissioners from the Departments of Safety, Corrections and Health & Human Services recently met with police chiefs from around the state and leaders from state police to discuss the impact heroin and opioid prescription drugs are having on the state and local communities.
Law enforcement personnel said heroin and the misuse of prescription medications are driving up crime rates, creating one of the most significant public safety issues facing communities and putting an unprecedented burden on limited resources.
"It is clear from forensics data and recent spikes in overdoses and deaths that we are in the midst of an epidemic of heroin use," stated N.H. State Police Col. Robert Quinn. "Law enforcement alone simply cannot solve this complex issue."
The good news is that there are treatments that work, according to Dr. Ben Nordstrom, director of Addiction Services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
"Methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are all FDA-approved medication for the treatment of opioid use disorders," he said. "In addition, peer support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Smart Recovery can prove invaluable to people recovering from addictions."
New changes in healthcare insurance that have or will soon require coverage for substance use and mental health disorders in both the public and private sectors, as well as pending state legislation that would make healthcare benefits supported by federal resources available to lower income individuals, could make addiction services more readily available in the state.
The brief provides strategies and resources for communities, professionals, and the public to learn more about heroin abuse in the state and what they can do. To read the brief, visit www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bdas/, www.drugfreenh.org, and www.nhcenterforexcellence.org