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Fentanyl, Not Heroin, Responsible for Majority of N.H. Drug Overdoses This Year

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

  At least 369 people have fatally overdosed in New Hampshire this year, according to an update released Tuesday by the state medical examiner.

But the state says another 78 cases are still under review, so the actual number could be even higher. 

Fentanyl was a factor, either on its own or combined with other drugs like heroin,  in nearly three-quarters of the drug overdose deaths that have been confirmed so far. Heroin, on the other hand, has been linked to just 6 percent of this year’s drug deaths.

Experts have warned the rise of fentanyl in New Hampshire is especially dangerous because it's more powerful than heroin and difficult to detect without special chemical lab tests — which means people might not even realize they're taking it.

State officials are projecting that a total of at least 476 people will die from drug overdoses by the end of 2016. If so, that would surpass 2015’s record, when New Hampshire first saw more than 400 drug deaths in a single year.

Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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