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Heroin, other drug overdoses alarm community

Union Leader Correspondent

April 25. 2014 9:34PM

DERRY — The town is not immune to the heroin and other drug overdose deaths that many communities in the Granite State are trying to stem.

Five people have died from drug overdoses in Derry since January, with four of the deaths blamed on heroin, police said.

"These are troubling times for all of us," said Ed Garone, police chief. "This is a scourge that has gone across the country and Derry has not escaped that scourge."

Also since January, there were 16 drug overdoses in Derry, with 12 from heroin, Garone said.

Garone was presenting his budget to town councilors Thursday when he cited the figures. More users are switching from prescription drugs to heroin, which is cheaper to buy on the street, Garone said.

In some cases, people who were prescribed a drug such as Oxycontin to treat pain become addicted. When they can no longer receive refills, they turn to the illegal market, Garone said. And when they can no longer afford to buy Oxycontin on the street, they end up trying heroin, which is far cheaper, Garone said.

The age range for overdose victims was from 19 to 38, and included men and women.

"So, it's a relatively young population of men and women," Garone said. "It crosses all the lines."

Statewide there were 193 drug overdose deaths — with 70 from heroin — recorded in 2013, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

In New Hampshire in 2012, there were 164 drug overdose deaths, with 38 from heroin, according to the statistics.

"Over the past three years, heroin deaths have been trending sharply upward," said Kim Fallon, chief forensic investigator with the Medical Examiner.

Figures weren't available for Derry, but in Rockingham County last year there were 28 drug overdose deaths, with eight from heroin, Fallon said.

In 2012 in Rockingham County, there were 34 drug overdose deaths, with six from heroin, she said.

During the discussion Thursday night, councilors expressed their concern and wanted to know what could be done to reduce overdoses.

Councilor Joshua Bourdon said he heard Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin speak over the weekend on the heroin crisis there.

"It's definitely a major concern in our neighboring state," said Bourdon, who then thanked Garone for his efforts to help in the addiction battle. "I appreciate your service with regard to that matter."

Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said officials need to talk more to physicians who may be overprescribing pain killers such as Oxycontin.

"They are the ones prescribing it," she said.

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