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Side Effects of Heroin, Opiate Epidemics on NH Families

PHOTO: Record increases in heroin and opiate abuse have had wide-ranging effects on New Hampshire families in 2014. Photo credit: Psychonaught/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Record increases in heroin and opiate abuse have had wide-ranging effects on New Hampshire families in 2014. Photo credit: Psychonaught/Wikimedia Commons.
December 15, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. – The numbers tell the story.

In the past decade, the Granite State has seen a 90 percent increase in people seeking state-funded treatment for heroin abuse, and a fivefold increase for prescription opiate abuse.

Carol Sobelson, a clinical social worker and board member with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) New Hampshire, says the average age of first heroin use is now 23, and the trend is having a devastating impact on New Hampshire families.

"I'm seeing more and more grandparents having to take care of grandchildren, because their children are in jail, their children are incompetent because of their drug use,” she relates. “So, we have 80-year-olds, you know, raising 5-year-olds."

Sobelson says one encouraging development is a new drug called Suboxone, available by prescription so it can be self-administered, allowing people to get back to work. Over time, she says doctors reduce the dosage so it doesn't have to be taken long-term.

Sobelson says one challenge for heroin addicts being treated with methadone is that there are only six clinics in the state. That can mean long drives to facilities that have limited hours, so she says it's harder to keep a job while undergoing methadone treatment.

"The treatment centers, they give it out and they're paid to give it out and so, they don't really have an incentive to get people to work down, in terms of their amount that they're taking," she explains.

While grandparents bear much of the brunt of younger family members' opiate abuse, Sobelson says they can also take a major step in prevention, by locking up any painkillers they have at home.

"If your grandchildren are visiting, make sure you've taken your narcotics out of the medicine cabinet, because that's often where young people first find them," she stresses.

Sobelson says more than 100,000 people in New Hampshire meet the treatment criteria for substance abuse, and local teen and early-adult substance abuse dependence rates are among the highest in the nation.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH