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AMR data shows opioid deaths have increased by 31%

By ADAM URQUHART | Nov 7, 2019

NASHUA – American Medical Response data state deaths from fentanyl and other opioids in Nashua are up 31% from this time last year.

“Death wise, I think we’re actually going to see a little bit of an uptick, which is something that we’re seeing across the country in larger communities around or near 100,000 population or above,” AMR Regional Director Chris Stawasz said.

Stawasz said for a yet-to-be-determined reason, the death rate is climbing in larger communities. There are plenty of theories for this, such as those more populated areas being home to more readily available services, from medical to recovery to housing, and other things of that nature that may not be able to be accessed in some of those smaller, less populated areas.

“I think there’s a couple factors that come into play with the increase of overdose deaths, and I think a lot has to do with the making of the drug,” Revive Recovery Center Program Director Jess Parnell said. “It all depends on the batch.”

With Nashua located near various highways and within a close proximity to cities in Massachusetts, she said plenty of drugs are in Lawrence or Lowell before Nashua. As substances make their way to those cities, and then further on up north to New Hampshire, the drugs change hands with different dealers and buyers, and could be cut with other things, such as fentanyl or whatever else along the way. She believes the potency is one of the major factors for these overdose deaths.

Additionally, she said she has heard of two cases in Nashua where someone did not previously use fentanyl or opiates, and bought meth or cocaine and ended up overdosing because it contained fentanyl. There have been various other cases across the country where fentanyl has been disguised among other illegal drugs.

“With overdose deaths going up 31%, don’t use alone,” Parnell said.

She said there are different harm-reduction strategies to help prevent these deaths, such as fentanyl test strips and Naloxone (Narcan), which are both available to people free of charge at Revive located at 263 Main St. in Nashua.

“We’re definitely seeing more people that are using multiple substances, polysubstance users,” Stawasz said. “It’s not uncommon for somebody to use, really, whatever they can get their hands on.”

“It’s kind of like playing wack-a-mole sometimes; it’s always changing and you’re constantly struggling to keep up with what’s being put into these substances,” Stawasz said.

Nonetheless, both he and Parnell acknowledged that various people and agencies across Nashua are working hard to get a handle on this ongoing opioid crisis. From Safe Stations to Granite Pathways, Stawasz said the city is lucky to have a really good medical community.

“I think we’re reaching a point where some people may be getting complacent with it because they see it on the news all the time and read about it all the time,” Stawasz said. “It hasn’t gone away. It’s still here.”

Parnell said in working to end the opioid crisis, the premier need is for more detox and treatment beds.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.


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