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Meth pouring into New Hampshire, worrying recovery advocates and first responders

Concord Monitor
Published: 8/27/2021 9:48:02 PM
Modified: 8/27/2021 9:48:08 PM

Methamphetamine is flooding into New Hampshire at alarming rates, overwhelming first responders and filling recovery programs.

Jon DeLena, an agent at the New England field division of the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the new influx of methamphetamine is coming from Mexican cartels that have seized on increasing mental health challenges and pandemic-related law enforcement limitations. He said the new crystal meth coming in to New England has been 99% to 100% pure, according to DEA sample tests, dramatically higher than the homemade methamphetamine agents are used to seeing in the state.

Though overdosing on methamphetamine alone is difficult, the number of deaths involving the drug has skyrocketed from two in 2015 to 59 in 2020, according to a recent report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

DeLena isn’t quite sure why crystal meth has caught on in New England this year — he said the cartels have been sending samples of the drug up north for years. The messaging around the dangers of opioids might have taken hold in the community, posing methamphetamine as a safer alternative, he said.

Whatever the reason, DeLena said the cartels have taken advantage of the opportunity by creating new ways to market methamphetamine to the public.

In some cases, he said dealers painted meth as a good way to counter the downs that often accompany fentanyl use. In other cases, he said they have appealed to a younger audience by shaping the crystal meth into tablets almost identical to Adderall pills.

The rise of methamphetamine has posed a myriad of problems for first responders, who started undergoing training in January for handling meth-related calls. Unlike opioid-related calls, which often involve reviving an unconscious person with Narcan, amphetamines can cause paranoia, hallucinations and violent behavior, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Sean Brown, the Concord fire chief, said it’s been a couple years since he’s responded to a meth-related call. Still, he remembers it vividly.

“I certainly remember what it was like to interact with people on that, because it’s kind of an unforgettable experience,” he said. “Individuals that are under the influence of meth can sometimes have very violent reactions and strengths that can sometimes seem superhuman.”

Keith Howard, the chair of the Governor’s Recovery Task Force and director of Manchester-based HOPE Recovery, said at his center the crystal meth anonymous recovery group that used to attract about three people now has about 130 regular participants.

Though the recovery groups seem to be going well, Howard said he worries the recent spike in COVID-19 cases will force the meetings, which just opened for in-person groups, back online.

He said while the groups were online, recovery centers lost hundreds of members. Howard, who has been in recovery for many years, found himself drifting away from the Zoom recovery meetings.

“I might as well have been watching a Youtube video of an AA meeting,” he said. “During the worst COVID times, there were a lot of people who slipped through the cracks. If we need to go into retreat again, that is going to be a real severe blow to these folks just starting to trust again develop these relationships.”

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