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A small step forward: Turning a corner in opioid epidemic?

EDITORIAL
December 30. 2017 9:07PM

The toll of drug overdose deaths across the United States has been so large that the nation's overall life expectancy actually fell in 2015 and 2016. (Olivier Le Queinec/Dreamstime/TNS)



After five years of skyrocketing death tolls from a spiraling opioid epidemic, it appears New Hampshire will lose fewer people to drug overdoses in 2017.

It can take two to three months for toxicology results to confirm cause of death, but the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office of Chief Medical Examiner projects that drug overdose deaths this year will fall below last year's tragic 485.

No matter the final tally, it will still be a staggering number. We hope that this year's slight drop turns into an accelerating trend.

The toll of drug overdose deaths across the United States has been so large that the nation's overall life expectancy actually fell in 2015 and 2016.

The year also brought a deadly new challenge; carfentanil, an opioid so powerful that it can be deadly just to touch.

New Hampshire has been at the center of the epidemic, with the nation's third-highest drug overdose rate per capita. We are also at the center of the solution.

Manchester's Safe Station program is being adopted by communities across the region. Public and private treatment programs are opening across the state. Narcan is savings the lives of overdose victims.

New Hampshire has averaged more than a drug overdose death per day for the past three years. Yet many of our neighbors are continuing to ingest deadly poisons. They know the risks but are unwilling or unable to stop.

That is what makes this epidemic so frustrating. Prevention, treatment and punishment have only worked at the margins. Politicians continue to squabble over public appropriations, as if they can buy their way out of this problem.

Hopefully, we will look back on 2017 as the year we turned the corner on the opioid epidemic. We'll enter 2018 looking for new and better ways to help people steer clear of this deadly addiction.


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