Reducing drug demand means NH must invest in addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery supports

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Op/Ed logoSupply and demand is one of the most fundamental concepts of economics and it is the backbone of a market economy. Demand refers to how much (quantity) of a product or service is desired by buyers. Supply represents how much the market can offer. This basic economic concept is in full play in NH’s current illegal drug epidemic. As long as the demand for illegal drugs such as heroin is high, the supply will continue to flow into our state.

Drugs, weapons seized in Keene drug bust.
Drugs, weapons seized in Keene drug bust.

On March 18, 2015, law enforcement officials made the largest seizure of heroin in NH’s history. A drug trafficking organization had been operating in the Keene area for about five years, and distributed nearly a kilo of heroin every 10 days on the street, according to U.S. Attorney John Kacavas. Keene isn’t the only area in NH dealing with the heroin crises. Every city and town in NH is feeling the impact of the drug misuse epidemic. The supply of illegal drugs flowing into NH is driven by the high rates of addiction in our state.

In 2014, 300 people died from drug overdoses in New Hampshire. That number is up from 193 people in 2013, and 164 people in 2012. According to the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office, the 2014 number may go up even more once all of the 2014 deaths in NH have been reviewed. On top of this alarming increase, consider that the overdose reversal drug Narcan was administered 3,275 times in 2014, and you have a sense of the scope of the crisis. The demand for heroin and other illegal drugs is through the roof in New Hampshire.

Drug overdoses are just one indicator of the substance misuse epidemic we are facing in NH.

We know that approximately 100,000 NH citizens are in need of treatment for substance use disorders. We know that the rates of substance misuse by NH youth and young adults are some of the highest in the country. We know that substance misuse costs businesses more than $1 billion per year in lost worker productivity. Alcohol misuse alone resulted in 9,237 fewer male workers in NH’s labor force in 2012, an overall reduction in the state’s labor force of 1.2 percent.

We know that substance misuse places an enormous strain on our healthcare, public safety, and criminal justice systems. According to Manchester Police Chief David Mara, there is one clear reason for the rise in Manchester’s violent crimes: drugs. We also know that when it comes to access to treatment for substance use disorders, NH ranks second to last in the country – only in Texas is a person in need of treatment for substance misuse less likely to receive it than in New Hampshire.

There is one clear path to addressing the drug misuse crisis in NH: reduce the demand for drugs. Reducing the demand for drugs means that our state must invest in addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery supports.

This week, the Republican members of House Finance Committee, Division III (the subcommittee responsible for the NH Department of Health and Human Services’ budget) voted to end the NH Health Protection Program, eliminate funding for a substance use benefit for the standard Medicaid population, and eliminate increased funding for substance use services through the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.

We implore our legislators to support the provisions of the proposed state budget that provide funding for substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery supports. Those provisions include:

  • reauthorization of the NH Health Protection Program, which provides a benefit for people with substance use disorders;
  • providing a substance use disorder benefit for the traditional Medicaid population, which will provide substance use services to NH’s youth and people with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders;
  • and increased funding for prevention, treatment and recovery supports through the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug abuse prevention, Treatment and Recovery. The citizens of NH have had enough.

Drug overdose death is not a partisan issue. It’s past time for NH’s legislators to put politics aside and support funding to address the scourge of drug and alcohol misuse in New Hampshire. Without the resources needed to combat the drug epidemic in NH, demand will only grow and the supply of illegal drugs flowing into our state will increase.

It’s simple economics.

Linda Paquette
Linda Paquette

Linda Saunders Paquette is Executive Director of New Futures. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1978 and is a member of the NH Bar Association. She is a past-president of the NH Trial Lawyers Association; and currently serves on the Board of National Alliance on Mental Illness – NH. She joined New Futures as Executive Director in October 2010. She leads New Futures in advancing its mission by creating new possibilities for project initiatives and grants, fostering innovation, leveraging resources, establishing partnerships, and coordinating staff activities.

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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!