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As N.H. Drug Deaths Climb, Fentanyl (Not Heroin) Plays A Role in Most Overdoses

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

 Fentanyl continues to be the main culprit behind deadly overdoses in New Hampshire: It’s been linked to 70 percent of drug deaths so far this year, according to the latest data from the state medical examiner.

In contrast, only about 6 percent of this year's drug deaths have been linked to heroin, used alone or combined with other drugs like fentanyl.

(Scroll down for an interactive charting the substances driving drug deaths in New Hampshire in recent years.)

Last year, fentanyl was confirmed to have been involved in about two-thirds of all drug deaths. That, in part, prompted state officials to start sounding the alarm about the drug.

Experts have warned that fentanyl can be especially dangerous because it’s even more powerful than heroin and can be especially difficult to detect when mixed in with other substances — so the people who are using it might not even know that it’s there.

So far in 2016, at least 286 people have fatally overdosed on opioids or other drugs in New Hampshire. The actual amount could be even higher, though, because it takes the state several months to review and confirm each reported overdose death. (The medical examiner’s office says 89 cases are still pending review right now.)

At this point, state officials are expecting the death toll from drug use to continue to climb – predicting 488 drug deaths total by the end of the year. That would top the record set last year, in 2015, when 439 people died from drug overdoses. 

Casey is a Senior News Editor for NHPR. You can contact her with questions or feedback at
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