A community forum last week in Londonderry addressed the heroin and opioid drug crisis in the local area and the state. It follows similar 2015 forums in Derry and Hampstead.
The message is the same. Heroin use is increasing, along with fatal overdoses. Treatment options are limited. Family vigilance is vital.
A Londonderry police detective told forum attendees that the town has seen heroin-related deaths more than quadruple in one year. And Londonderry police found that 93 percent of people arrested for residential burglaries in 2015, a category that increased dramatically that year, said they were addicted to heroin or had a history of addiction to the narcotic.
Meanwhile in Derry in 2014, police responded to 42 drug overdoses, 12 of them fatal. By the end of September 2015, Derry Police had responded to 103 overdoses and 10 deaths.
There’s a lot to consider. New Hampshire has just 256 treatment beds, a shortage that keeps many from potentially kicking the habit. When treatment is unavailable or not an immediate option, the likelihood is good of drug abuse continuing.
The State has taken some positive steps – passing a Good Samaritan Law to ensure that fear of arrest doesn’t keep people from helping someone experiencing an overdose; and making Narcan, used to reverse overdoses, available by prescription to medical professionals and families with a heroin addict.
But more remains to be done, and much of that takes money. Officials said among the things needed are drug education for all students, from Kindergarten up; prescription drug monitoring to keep addicts from “doctor shopping;” a 24-hour crisis hotline; and drug courts. As well as paying close attention when pain prescriptions are prescribed to young athletes.
In some cases, the forums included parents whose children died from heroin overdoses. Their comments offer suggestions for everyone, ranging from paying attention to your child’s friends to talking about addiction to getting rid of unused medications.
Because it all begins at home. And heroin doesn’t discriminate – wealthy suburban communities in Southern New Hampshire are no more immune than poor North Country towns or inner city Manchester. U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, told the Londonderry forum that “we can’t arrest our way out of it…It’s not just a law enforcement problem, it’s everyone’s problem.”
While arrest can be the catalyst for treatment – if treatment options are available – the key message of each forum was family involvement. Kicking the habit isn’t easy. Laurie Warnock, education coordinator for the New England Poison Center, told Hampstead residents there is no “typical” user, with drug abuse a “lifelong battle.”
And it can – and does – happen here.