Shaheen discusses fentanyl crisis with local expert roundtable

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Jeanne Shaheen on July 22, 2022. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Friday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined with community leaders from around New Hampshire discuss new developments on the threat of fentanyl as well as what is needed to address not only the scourge of fentanyl but other illegal drug use within the Granite State.

Hosted by Makin’ It Happen, an organization committed to promoting the overall well-being of youth and families with a focus on alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention efforts, one recurring theme is the rise of fentanyl as the current driving force behind opioid addiction in New Hampshire.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine prescribed for cancer patients but also made illegally by drug cartels that import the ingredients and then make the drug within the United States.

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Chris Stawasz on July 22, 2022. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Chris Stawasz, Northeast Regional Director of Government Affairs for American Medical Response, says that opioid deaths are rising in part due to many opioid users doing drugs alone. In turn, no one is around to provide a dose of lifesaving Narcan to the overdosing opioid user.

Stawasz and DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division Jon DeLena also noted that many people now are overdosing on fentanyl without even knowing that fentanyl was part of the drugs they were taking, including such drugs as marijuana, cocaine or heroin. They added that just a few grains of the drug can be a lethal dose in most circumstances.

They added that these drugs are now almost exclusively obtained through social media sites and e-commerce platforms by those who do not realize that authentic prescription drugs cannot be legally purchased through these avenues.

DeLena added that the inclusion of fentanyl within these other drugs is a key tactic of Mexican drug cartels in the hope that the addictiveness of the fentanyl will transform occasional drug users into daily drug users, even if it kills them.

“(The cartels) are purposely putting fentanyl into these drugs to try and create an opioid addiction, that’s what they want,” said DeLena. “They want you to come back every day and all day and if they happen to kill you along the way, they’re okay with that because their business model is to just continue bringing in new customers.”

Another issue impacting increased opioid deaths in New Hampshire is mental healthcare in crisis situations, with members of the roundtable stressing the importance of outreach efforts that can prevent potential overdoses coming from those who use drugs due to depression.

Shaheen noted that Fiscal Year 2022 government funding legislation included $572.5 million to help communities and first responders respond to substance use crises, including opioid misuse and drug trafficking.

The recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was passed after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has also provided more funding for Byrne Grants that can help local governments tackle opioid abuse, Shaheen said.

“The substance use disorder crisis that seized our communities years ago is different than what we’re seeing today. As this epidemic has evolved, so must our response. That’s precisely why the Drug-Free Community program, through the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is such an important tool to prevention coalitions, which are on the front lines. The prevalence of fentanyl, combined with other drug use and the exacerbating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has only heightened the substance use disorder crisis in our state. We must inform our response to be sure we are tackling it from all sides,” Shaheen said, including access to treatment for those who are struggling, investments in prevention and bolstered resources to prioritize interdiction to stop illicit drugs from seeping into our communities.

“I appreciate the insight from all participants today who brought important perspectives that will help us address the full scope of this epidemic, and I look forward to sharing their experiences with lawmakers in Washington.”


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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.