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N.H. Medical Examiner: 385 Drug Deaths Counted in 2015, Final Total Could Be Higher

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New Hampshire saw at least 385 drug deaths in 2015, according to the latest tally from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — but the actual total could be even higher, as some 45 cases are still pending toxicology.

Toward the end of last year, state officials began warning that the state could end up surpassing 400 drug deaths total for 2015. Even if the current figure remains the same, however, that would still make 2015 the deadliest in recent years when it comes to drug overdose fatalities.

Of the cases processed so far, nearly two-thirds of the drug deaths last year involved fentanyl, either alone or mixed with other drugs. 

Fentanyl can be prescribed for medical purposes, but an analog version of the drug is increasingly making its way into illicit drug samples circulating in New Hampshire. 

The substance is prompting growing concern among public health officials and lawmakers, because it can be even stronger than heroin and difficult to distinguish when mixed with other substances. 

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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