NH DHHS Releases Findings: Prescription Drug Abuse Data

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:


To read the Issue Brief “Prescription Pain Medication Misuse” visit the

DHHS website at: www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bdas/index.htm

Recovery from addiction is possible. For more information on prescription

drug misuse and treatment options visit: www.drugfreenh.org  or