Drug-related deaths spike in December, but 2019 numbers still lowest since 2014

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Despite a spike in December, overdose deaths are at their lowest since 2014.

CONCORD, NH — The latest overdose drug statistics released Tuesday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirm 350 drug deaths last year in New Hampshire with another 59 pending toxicology.

If all of the pending cases are confirmed as drug deaths, the 409 total deaths would still be 62 fewer deaths than in 2018, the second year in a row the number of drug deaths has decreased.

“It was looking like there was going to be a huge decrease until December happened,” said Kim Fallon, chief forensic investigator. That month, there were 20 confirmed overdose deaths with another 29 cases pending toxicology.

“Once all the 2019 cases are finalized we will clean the data and come up with the true number,” she said. “It does look like 2019 is the lowest annual death toll since 2014.”

That year 342 people died from drug overdoses. The number of deaths peaked in 2017 when 490 people died from drug overdoses in New Hampshire.

So far this year, there are eight confirmed drug deaths with another 44 cases pending toxicology.

Fentanyl again appears to be the deadly drug with seven of those deaths caused by it. The other death was the result of cocaine.

Deaths that involved methamphetamine nearly doubled in 2019. Forty-two people died of drug overdoses involving methamphetamine; only three were solely meth.

That compares to 22 deaths in 2018 that involved meth; four were solely meth.

As has been the case in the past, Manchester, with 69 deaths and 11 other cases pending toxicology, accounts for nearly 20 percent of the 2019 drug overdose deaths. That is more than double the number of drug deaths in Nashua where there were 28 confirmed drug deaths with another 10 pending.

Twenty people died of drug overdoses in Rochester with six more pending toxicology; Concord had 15 confirmed drug deaths while Seabrook had nine, with two pending, and Dover recorded 8 drug deaths, with two more pending toxicology results.