Turning the tide and addressing NH’s addiction crisis as meth resurges

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This story was produced for the Granite State News Collaborative as part of our Granite Solutions project, addressing the state’s opioid crisis, a look at what’s working, where the millions of federal dollars are being spent, and what’s next.

Crystal Meth
Crystal Methamphetamine. Wikimedia

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MANCHESTER, NH — Across the state, substance abuse treatment providers are grateful for federal money the state received to address the opioid crisis but have made it clear it’s not the only issue they are treating.

Within the past year, New Hampshire received more than $64 million in State Opioid Response grants, which are limited to treating opioid-related substance use disorders. But that may be changing thanks to the introduction of the Turn the Tide Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

On December 16, Shaheen announced government funding legislation for fiscal year 2020 released by Senate and House leaders will include a provision that allows flexibility for treatment providers to be able to use opioid response grant dollars to help patients suffering from meth and cocaine dependency, in addition to opioid use disorder.

The announcement is timely as treatment providers say crystal methamphetamine misuse is on the rise.

“Even in the last six months, it’s been horrible,” said Carrie LaFlamme, admissions director at the Bethlehem-based Friendship House, which is part of the North Country Health Consortium.

Denise Elwart, director of operations for Southeastern New Hampshire Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services in Dover, agreed, “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in meth use.”

Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was involved in the efforts to release the SOR funding in 2018. The Turn the Tide Act originated from her discussions with New Hampshire treatment providers, according to the release.

“The substance use disorder epidemic we’re facing today isn’t the same one we were fighting a few years ago, so as this crisis evolves so should our response,” said Shaheen. “By empowering treatment providers with the ability to use these federal grants for a broader range of substance misuse, we can help ensure more Granite Staters get the help they desperately need.

Treatment for meth addiction is quite different from the treatment of opioid addiction. Those using meth may develop meth-induced psychosis, which may put the person and others at risk of harm, according to Dr. Seddon Savage, MD, MS, Dartmouth-Hitchock Substance Use & Mental Health Initiative and chair of the Opioid Task Force of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drugs

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U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

“It’s not like opioids at all, especially because of meth psychosis,” said LaFlamme. “People (with meth addiction)can be beyond our level of care.” 

Sara Lutat is executive director of Dismas Home of NH in Manchester, which serves women who have been in a substance-use disorder program while incarcerated and need additional treatment upon release. She said heroin and fentanyl have become too expensive so people are turning to meth, and many women use meth because it’s cheaper.

Also worrisome to treatment providers is the belief that meth is safer than opioids.

 “It’s a misconception,” Lutat said. “People think you can’t die from it, but you can.”

According to Shaheen’s office, the bill also funds the SOR grant program at $1.5 billion for the year and maintains the 15 percent set-aside for hardest-hit states like New Hampshire. Additionally, the state is slated to receive up to $1.7 million through the SUPPORT Act for housing assistance for those struggling with substance use disorders.

There is also funding the bill for Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act programs, which is needed in New Hampshire since it faces a backlog of cases partially due to the impact of the opioid epidemic on families, according to the announcement. 

Other stories from the Follow the Money series:

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The Berlin Daily Sun, Business NH Magazine, The Eagle-Tribune, The Keene Sentinel, The Laconia Daily Sun, Manchester Ink Link, The Marlin Fitzwater Center at Franklin Pierce University, The Nashua Telegraph, NH Bar News, NH Business Review, NH PBS, The Pierce Arrow at FPU, Seacoast Media Group, Parenting NH, Concord Monitor, Valley News,  The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and New Hampshire Press Association.

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About this Author

Susan Geier for Granite State News Collaborative