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Fatal overdoses down in NH in 2019

Monitor staff
Published: 10/3/2020 7:57:56 PM
Modified: 10/3/2020 7:57:54 PM

Fatal overdoses in New Hampshire decreased in 2019, according to data released Wednesday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The number of fatal overdoses decreased by 12%, from 471 in 2018 to 417 last year. New Hampshire saw a peak in the number in 2017 but the number has steadily dropped since then.

Hillsborough County, which includes the cities of Manchester and Nashua, accounted for many of the overdoses. There were 40 fatal overdoses in Merrimack County in 2019.

Despite the overall decrease, some drugs have been on the rise in New Hampshire. Cocaine was responsible for 79 deaths last year, another data point in a rising trend line over the last seven years.

There was also a 136% increase in the number of fatal overdoses due to methamphetamines, from 22 to 52 deaths.

Despite the decrease in fatal overdoses, advocates are worried this number might jump back up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Advocates have long worried about the effect of COVID-19 on mental health since the start of the pandemic. To many, the combination of isolation and economic instability has created a perfect storm for those struggling with substance abuse. Some recent studies have found an association between unemployment and the risk of fatal overdoses.

Treatment providers across the state have reported financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. A report published by the non-profit New Futures found that providers will have lost about $6 million in revenue by October. Additional costs associated with operating, such as purchasing telemedicine technology, coupled with a decline in clients and events that would ordinarily generate income, have been disastrous for the providers.

Eight of the surveyed providers in the study said they have had to lay off or furlough staff since the virus struck in March. Seven more respondents said they would have to lay off additional staff in order to survive through early October.

A lack of access to substance abuse treatment providers could further exacerbate the addiction crisis, advocates say.

Based on preliminary data, there may be a “slight uptick in the number of drug overdose deaths in 2020,” according to the report.

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