Federal drug report shows mixed results

NASHUA – A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the drug overdose death rate in New Hampshire in 2017 remained roughly the same as the previous year, but problems with fentanyl seem to be spreading throughout the nation.

Members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are thankful the situation in the Granite State did not significantly worsen, but they acknowledged more work needs to be done. This is especially true when looking at the national rate of drug overdose deaths, which was nearly 10 percent higher than it was in 2016. The report also found that in 2017 there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths nationwide.

The data also show drug deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased 45 percent from 2016 to 2017.

“While I am thankful that New Hampshire’s rate of drug overdose deaths did not increase significantly in 2017, the opioid crisis remains so severe that the CDC found that American life expectancy fell for the second straight year in part due to increasing drug overdose deaths,” U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said.

According to this new report, “The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased by 45 percent from 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016 to 9.0 in 2017.”

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said it is a promising sign that New Hampshire’s drug overdose rate did not increase last year, but said too many Granite Staters continue dying from drug overdoses. She acknowledges those working on the front lines of the opioid epidemic are doing a tremendous job, but said they need more help.

“The federal government has to step up and help our state by providing the resources and support that the severity of this crisis demands,” Shea-Porter said.

Echoing her thoughts, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., said this report underscores the serious danger synthetic opioids pose to communities and the importance of getting these substances off of the streets.

“While there has been progress to expand access to long-term recovery and treatment, much work remains to tackle the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire and across the country,” Kuster said.

Moreover, she said the crisis requires continued diligence at the local, state and federal level.

Although U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is also relieved the Granite State’s drug overdose death rate did not significantly increase last year, she said these numbers still reflect a very tragic reality – there is much more work ahead. According to the report, New Hampshire had 467 drug overdose deaths in 2017, which Shaheen said is a staggering and unacceptable number, with each death representing a family member, friend or colleague.

“Too many Granite Staters are suffering from substance use disorders without the treatment they need, and our first responders on the front lines continue to need additional resources to respond to this enormous crisis,” Shaheen said. “While this report shows we are moving in the right direction, there is much more work ahead to overcome this scourge.”

That report can be found online at, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db329.htm.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.