Concord – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is releasing findings regarding the abuse of prescription drugs. The data, detailed in the Issue Brief, “Prescription Pain Medication Misuse” shows abuse of prescription pain relievers among the state’s 18 to 25 year olds remains above the national average and higher than other states in the northeast. Approximately one in eight (12.3%) young adults reported abusing pain relievers in the past year according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NH also saw its highest number of drug related deaths ever in 2011, with the NH Medical Examiner’s office reporting 200 drug related deaths and approximately 80% of those deaths involving prescription drugs.
Although statistics are higher for New Hampshire then other states, the DHHS’ Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services (BDAS) sees signs of a possible shift in behaviors, with the number of drug related deaths lower in 2012 and the rate of young adult pain reliever abuse down from a peak of 14.9% in 2010.
“The 2012 data appears a little better, but we don’t have enough information to determine if the changes indicate a clear and positive change in the trend,” said BDAS Director Joe Harding. “Unfortunately, we are seeing some individuals dependent on prescription pain medication (opioids) switching to heroin as a cheaper and more available substitute.”
Opioid addiction (dependence on pain killers such as oxycodone) has also been on the rise. In 2010, oxycodone became the second most prevalent drug of abuse after alcohol among those entering state funded substance abuse treatment. It is also resulting in a rising number of babies born in New Hampshire with symptoms of withdrawal from opioids used by the mother while pregnant. Recent data of hospital discharges show a steady rise in the number of newborns being diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS. Just after birth, these babies exhibit symptoms of irritability, feeding difficulty, respiratory problems, and seizures and require intensive and costly care for several weeks after birth.
Drug-free NH and other advocacy groups continue efforts aimed at raising awareness and working on initiatives to prevent prescription drug abuse, including Prescription Drug Take Back events where people can anonymously and safely dispose of unneeded medications and a new prescription drug monitoring program that was recently passed into law.
There is a Prescription Drug Take Back event in NH this weekend. To find a collection site near you visit: www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/