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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Milford library packed for police talk on heroin, opioids

MILFORD – There are bad drugs here, but “Milford, NH, isn’t south central Los Angeles,” Sgt. Matthew Fiffield told an overflow crowd at the Milford public library Tuesday night.

The Milford officer was there to talk about the increasing abuse of heroin and opioids here and across the country. ...

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MILFORD – There are bad drugs here, but “Milford, NH, isn’t south central Los Angeles,” Sgt. Matthew Fiffield told an overflow crowd at the Milford public library Tuesday night.

The Milford officer was there to talk about the increasing abuse of heroin and opioids here and across the country.

And despite a warning to the audience that he was not going to be sidetracked by personal stories – he left his phone number and email address to contact him later – some of those sad stories came through anyway. One woman said her son died of an overdose this summer.

Yet, there is nothing unusual about Milford, said the sergeant, and other towns and cities have worse drug problems.

The average age of a person who has used heroin sometime in their lives is now between 12 and 17 and the number of those young teens increased by 300 percent between 1995 and 2002, said Fiffield, explaining how use of legal pills for a sports injury, for example, can quickly graduate into heroin use because the drug is now significantly cheaper than prescription medications.

Fiffield spoke from personal experience. He said he has a cousin who has been to jail twice, had his children taken away from him and almost lost his life to drugs.

Drug users are very unlucky people who deserve compassion and help, he said. Quitting cigarettes is tough, but “this is serious stuff,” and heroin addicts don’t simply want to get high. Cravings are more like extreme thirst or needing to breathe when you’re underwater, feelings that are very difficult to deny without intervention and support, he said.

During a slide presentation showing street names for drugs, diagrams of drugs’ short- and long-term physical effects, and the different levels of drugs’ potential for addiction, there were statistics about drug use that make clear heroin is not confined to young people.

In 2012, for example, there were no heroin deaths in New Hampshire among people 50-59 years old. One year later there were 14 deaths in that age category, as well as 59 deaths among young men, 20-29.

When the sergeant opened the meeting to audience discussion, one woman said she has been dealing with her son’s addiction for seven years and he is now on the verge of being homeless.

She cried as she told how confused and lonely she has been.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with him,” she said, and because of privacy laws that kick in once teenagers turn 18, “you are no longer able to help your own kid.”

Part of the reason for the opioid epidemic, she suggested, is that painkillers are too available.

“I know so many people who had surgery and were given a two months supply” of medication, she said, and they use it for one day. Pharmaceutical companies “are making a ton of money.”

There were more than 50 people in the small meeting room, and Fiffield advised them to share any information they have with the police, but warned against taking action like putting signs in front of suspected drug dealers’ houses.

“Drug dealers have rights too,” he said, but on the other hand, you can tie almost any crime to the presence, distribution and use of drugs.

Michelle Sampson, director of the Wadleigh Memorial Library, told the audience that she had seen Fiffield’s presentation at a Milford Rotary Club meeting and thought it deserved a wider audience.

She said later that the item on the library’s website announcing the July 22 talk received 4,000 “hits,” and nothing on the seven-year-old website has ever come close to getting a response like that.