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First responders warn of significant increase in overdose deaths in New Hampshire

Officials say overdose deaths rising in Manchester, Nashua

First responders and health care providers are issuing a warning over an increase in drug overdose deaths, especially in two of New Hampshire's largest cities.

Manchester and Nashua are experiencing an increase in overdose deaths, officials said, calling it a disturbing trend.

"Sadly, the opioid crisis is going on eight years here in New Hampshire," said Chris Stawasz, regional director of American Medical Response.

The state has made gains against the crisis, bringing down overdose numbers that hit record lows during the pandemic.

"And now we've lost all of that," Stawasz said. "We're back to pre-pandemic levels."

During a meeting Friday, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen sat down with AMR, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other drug prevention advocates for a discussion about what the state is experiencing.

"I think we're probably going to have higher deaths than we did pre-pandemic," Stawasz said.

According to AMR, Manchester is on track to have a 30% increase in opioid-related deaths compared to last year. Nashua is looking at 70% increase over last year.

A major contributor, Stawasz said, is opioids that are put into other drugs that people aren't expecting them to be in.

"Cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana," he said. "We've seen people go unconscious after using those drugs. They had no idea that synthetic fentanyl was inside of them."

Mental health is also playing a role.

"Especially with the pandemic, people are more stressed out, anxious and isolated.," said Deryn Smith, of ALL Together Lebanon and the Youth CAN coalition. "So, a lot of times, people are using substances as a way to cope. I think it's getting to a point where things are getting scary."

Shaheen said the federal government set aside $572 million to help first responders answer calls for opioid misuse and drug trafficking.