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Despite Surge in Narcan, Opioid Overdose Deaths on the Rise in Manchester

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is an anti-overdose drug.
Paige Sutherland for NHPR


Documented opioid overdoses in Manchester and Nashua are on the decline, but in Manchester, overdose deaths are increasing.

New data from the emergency response group American Medical Response shows a mixture of progress and struggle for those coping with opioid use disorder and the agencies tasked with supporting them.

In both cities, the overall number of documented opioid overdoses is projected to be the lowest since 2016, and the number of people using narcan before a first responder shows up at the scene of an overdose has surged. In Manchester, Narcan use has increased by nearly 75 percent since last year.

AMR's regional director Christopher Stawasz says increased Narcan availability is saving lives thanks to more investment from the state.

But other trends are troubling. The number of people from outside Manchester seeking help for addiction at the city’s Safe Stations is growing, despite a push by the state to open up resource centers, called "Doorways," in every region.


Hundreds of people have come to the safe stations from towns with newly established Doorways, including Nashua, Concord, and Laconia.

“It’s a really good idea on paper but unfortunately I don’t think the behind-the-scenes treatment facilities are available in other communities," Stawasz says. "Those aren’t things that you can just stand up overnight.”

The number of overdose deaths in Manchester is projected to exceed last year's but fall far below levels the city saw in 2016. Stawasz says there is no clear explanation for the spike, but it may be connected to a documented increase this year in the number of people seeking homelessness and addiction services in the city.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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