Heroin Deaths Nearly Double in NH

Chief medical examiner’s office calls the drug “an urgent public health issue.”

About $100 worth of heroin recently confiscated by police. Credit: Concord Police Department
About $100 worth of heroin recently confiscated by police. Credit: Concord Police Department

The data is not complete for 2013, but the state of New Hampshire is already seeing one of its worst years yet when it comes to heroin deaths, according to the state medical examiner’s officer.

Kim Fallon, a chief forensic investigator with the department, said that in 2013, 63 people died from heroin, with between 30 and 40 other drug death cases pending that have not been determined. In 2012, 37 people were recorded by the department as having died from heroin.

“We consider heroin an urgent public health issue,” she said, noting the dramatic increase in year over year deaths.

Fallon said there were two broad categories of users who had died in the last year, those who are taking the drug for recreational purposes and those who start out taking prescription drugs or other narcotics and “end up needing more.” The latter, she said, tends to be middle-aged adults, while young people are the recreational users.

Today’s street heroin is also has a very “high purity,” according to reports from the department, and is cheap when compared to Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. New Hampshire and other states are also seeing the heroin mixed with fentanyl in some of their cases.

According to Fallon’s data, toxicology reports often show other substances in the chemical makeup of the deaths, but heroin tends to be the more toxic of the substances and the primary reason people died. She said the department hoped to be able to finalize all 2013’s cases soon. Some of the cases showed false positives, so the department runs a second test to make sure. A quantitative test is run to see how much is in someone’s system. A confirmatory test is then run after that test, she said.

“It can take two to three months to get the test results back,” she said.

A number of overdosesdeaths, and heroin arrests have been reported in recent weeks around the state, as well as Massachusetts, where a major multi-agency drug raid took place last week

The department is still working on a number of drug deaths from last year and also this year. All of January’s heroin deaths have not been confirmed to be heroin, she said. Most law enforcement agencies are assuming that many of the deaths are due to heroin because of what they see at the scene of the deaths, the previous knowledge with the individuals who died, or what witnesses tell them, but it isn’t always accurate information.

Heroin vs. other drug deaths

While the 2013 data isn’t complete, when looking at the data from previous years, heroin deaths are clearly escalating in the state.

In 2000, there were about 50 deaths in the state directly related to illicit drug use. In 2006, drug deaths surpassed traffic deaths in New Hampshire and there have been more drug deaths than traffic deaths every year since, with the exception of 2008, which had a slight dip in drug deaths.

By 2011, the drug death number had steadily increased to 201, with a little less than half of the deaths coming from people who were prescribed the drugs. In 2012, deaths had dropped back down to 164, with about half of those people gaining access to the drugs in an illicit manner.

Between 2005 and 2010, state officials say that Methadone caused the most drug deaths in New Hampshire, with cocaine and Oxycodone rounding out the top three. But by 2011, that had shifted, with Oxycodone causing the most deaths in the state, followed by heroin and Methadone. In 2012, Heroin caused the most drug deaths, followed by Oxycodone and Methadone.

Opiates, as a general category, have consistently made up between 30 and 43 percent of drug deaths in New Hampshire during the past decade, according to state officials.

According to state data, most of the drug deaths are accidental although during the last decade, anywhere between 20 and 40 of the deaths each year were determined to be suicides. In 2001, it was more than a third, according to the data. Fallon said there was usually “compelling evidence” from notes, texts, or some other indication, showing that the people were attempting or planning on ending their lives.

County consumption

The state analyzes most of the drug death data by county of use, not necessarily where the person died. The person may have been using in one area of the state but was pronounced dead or died in a hospital in another county.

The three counties with Patch community websites have seen a varying number of deaths during the past few years, with nearly all the numbers on the upswing.

In 2008, two people died from heroin in Merrimack County and no one died from heroin in 2010, whereas seven people have died, so far, in 2013.

Rockingham County has seen its heroin death numbers increase too, from lows of two in 2010 and four in both 2008 and 2009, to 11 in 2011 and nine so far last year.

Hillsborough County though has been the hardest hit in the state.

In 2008, seven people died from heroin. By 2011, that number increased to 19. In 2012, it was 21. And last year, again, with incomplete data, 17 people had perished from the drug.

While men solidly outnumbered women when measuring heroin deaths, the gender numbers are shifting. Hillsborough County, as an example, showed a sizable increase in the number women dying at the hands of the drug. No women in 2008 passed away and only one died in 2009. But by 2012, seven women between the ages of 20 and 39 had been killed by the drug, with four, between 30 and 59, dying of the drug last year.

Both Merrimack and Rockingham counties saw similar increases. 

What to do

Fallon said each agency in both state and local government had its own role to play in the process of disseminating information about the urgency of the heroin problem. For her, and the medical examiner’s office, it’s about getting the information into the public realm.

“We try to get the data, to reporters, to get the word out that people are dying from this,” she said, adding that celebrity deaths like Phillip Seymour Hoffman should also prompt people to take a look at the situation.

“I think people will pay more attention to it,” she added.

Kyle February 09, 2014 at 07:27 PM
Heroin Deaths Nearly Double in New Hampshire If this trend continues; we could win the war on Drugs!
Frank Miles February 09, 2014 at 07:49 PM
Meanwhile 88,000 people die a year from alcohol abuse. But, that's apparently no big deal.
Thomas Stieglitz February 09, 2014 at 07:55 PM
multiple societies throughout history have tried to deal with opiate addiction--obviously none of them fully succeeded.
ray February 09, 2014 at 08:43 PM
This isn't a public health issue, it's a mental health issue. You have to be nuts to stick a needle full of unknown substance into your arm.
Dross Cool February 09, 2014 at 11:20 PM
John Gregory February 10, 2014 at 01:36 AM
The increase in "purity" of Heroine and it's precursor ingredient(s) is - in other studies in the US, Russia and Europe - shown to be relative to production in Afghanistan and what was known as the Golden Triangle. Availability of stocks and chemical processing agents has flowed easily and with this the "pipeline" has greater potency, strength and toxicity than before 2005-8. As the conduits to market's clear out of "over-cut" product - it becomes more indicative on "end-market" distributors to cut and sell the product entering the major world markets now. "Ace's" - quantity - "of Spades": mixed with other opiates, Xanax, Valium ingredients previously known as Quaaludes, and "of Hearts" - sometimes known as "speed-balls" basically cut with cocaine, methamphetamine, "Black Ice", (Turkey/Mexico), "Ice Princess" (China), or crack will most likely kill many more before the new product's purity is understood by those selling it, and unfortunately for PSH, those using it.
Klediss February 10, 2014 at 03:33 AM
looks like the dem population is zoning out due to o and his pain index.
tojo February 10, 2014 at 09:10 AM
The Chinese cured thier horrible opium problem in less than 2 years. Caught with drugs? You get 38 cent 9MM bullet to the back of the head, problem solved.
Pound Pets February 10, 2014 at 11:59 AM
This is due to them cracking down on pain pills such as Oxycodone. They have made it so much easier to get heroin. So people are turning to it and dying...
Waismann Method February 10, 2014 at 01:17 PM
We believe that one of the best ways that we, as a community, can help drug abusers is putting care before judgement. Showing compassion and understanding isn't always easy when confronted with the realities and consequences associated with drug abuse, but we need to remember that people who abuse drugs can come from any walk of life. We need to offer humane and effective treatment and nationwide awareness programs.
Burt February 10, 2014 at 01:57 PM
This is all due to a lack of sex. There have been hundreds of articles supporting this. SO this Valentines day ...have as much sex as possible!!!
Barry Harper February 10, 2014 at 02:07 PM
The reason no one in charge is doing much about this ,is it's curbing the population ,plus bring in tons of money into the system ,plus all the other vises too .
Dan Crabtree February 10, 2014 at 09:21 PM
While it appears these heroin addicts and deaths are the worse in all democrat states..hummmmm wonder why?
Melinda Murray February 10, 2014 at 10:49 PM
There is no effective treatment as of yet. What we have been doing forever does not work. Just work on the kid on the fence. The ones who have fallen, let them go. Drug court has no success rate. People are ok for the 5 years they are babysat but then they are i jail or dead. Yet its nicely funded so we keep that program. Any shrink or councilor or doctor that says they can help or fix you or your loved one watch out. The only ting they have is replacing one drug for another. Unless its brand new {therefore wouldn't be legal in the U.S.A.} don't waste your families time ,tears or money.
Roger N. Chellew February 10, 2014 at 11:47 PM
63 deaths confirmed, with a possible 40 pending, NH population is 626,000, "an urgent public health issue". Do the math! I'm not saying it isn't tragic, but the sky isn't falling.
Super Fun Size February 11, 2014 at 07:24 AM
@ Dan CrabTree Lots of Red States in this Data: West Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada and Kentucky, the mortality rate due to drug overdoses was higher than 20 per 100,000 residents, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control. The Southwest and Appalachia are hardest-hit by drug overdoses. The mortality rate in West Virginia alone has spiked by more than 600 percent since 1999. The rate of drug-related deaths more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2010 in Kentucky, Indiana and Iowa, too. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/10/08/drug-overdoses-kill-more-people-than-auto-accidents-in-29-states/
BassGreat February 11, 2014 at 09:51 AM
Looking for a spiritual high in all of the wrong places.
John Strother February 11, 2014 at 12:04 PM
oh the poor drug dealers are losing their clients to over doses. heroin users are looking for a way out of living and this stronger drug is sure making it easy for them. Crime will go down with the higher number of overdoses. For those that are addicted, they will no longer be alive to do crimes.
Dross Cool February 11, 2014 at 10:33 PM
Mike Maurais February 12, 2014 at 09:51 AM
Mike M The problem in N.H. is, not enough police & some towns no police at all. Northern N.H. they have nothing else to do but party. And if someone did percentage work they would see the sky is falling!!!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something