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What The Data Tells Us About Opioid Use Right Now in N.H.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Last year saw more drug overdose deaths than ever before in New Hampshire.

So far in 2016, the state’s confirmed at least 48 deaths, with another 89 potential cases on top of that — officials are waiting for more toxicology reports to add those into the total.

The death toll, however, only tells part of the story of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

There’s also the question of how much strain it’s placing on local emergency rooms, how frequently first responders are being called in to help someone after an overdose, how many people are connecting with treatment — not to mention who's most directly affected by the addiction epidemic .

Some newly released reports from the New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative, an official statewide effort to keep tabs on public health trends around opioid use, help to shed some additional light on the addiction epidemic beyond just its body count.

Here’s what that data tells us.

  • Statewide, emergency department visits seemingly spiked between February and March — but they were down between January and February. The figures have fluctuated over the last few months, but there were about 100 more ER visits for opioids in March than in November.

  • Young adults — specifically those in their twenties — are being hit especially hard by opioids. Twenty-somethings are ending up in emergency rooms because of opioids more frequently than any other age group, and they’re also getting Narcan from EMS personnel more often than anyone else, too.

  • For the last five months, people between ages 20 and 40 have accounted for more than half of such hospital visits statewide.

  • More men than women are heading to emergency rooms because of heroin or opioid use. And in the last two months, at least, EMS crews have been called to administer Narcan to men much more frequently than for women.

  • Hillsborough County far outpaces all other parts of the state when it comes to treatment admissions, Narcan administration by first-responders and opioid-related emergency department visits. That isn’t necessarily surprising, given that it’s also the most populous.

  • The number of people entering treatment programs for heroin or prescription drugs held fairly steady for the last six months, fluctuating between about 170 and 200 admissions per month. Most of those people were residents of Hillsborough, Strafford, Rockingham and Grafton Counties.

The state’s been compiling these reports since 2014, distributing them to public health and safety agencies, as well as other private groups working on drug issues. The reports have only been made available to the public since January

If you want to join the email list to receive the monthly updates, you can contact the New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center at NH.IAC@dos.nh.gov.

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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