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Sep 26, 2014 10:14 PM

Manchester couple loses daughter to heroin overdose


CONCORD - It is a major problem plaguing New Hampshire.

At this point, state officials are calling the use of heroin an epidemic.

The state has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the nation but is second to last for people to get access to treatment.

NH1 wanted to know why the drug is ravaging New Hampshire families, how many children of addicted parents fall through the cracks, and where the wind up.

But first, we bring you this story of a Manchester family who tried everything they could to save their daughter's life but in the end, she wound up dead.

"A girl that was brilliant, creative, well-read, talented, compassionate, but she got bit by the dragon.

That dragon? Heroin. Amber Marie Blevens battled it for years and went to countless rehabs and tried to get clean... but she'd always relapse.

We asked Amber's parents about the time they last saw her daughter alive.

"It was Easter and she was going to spend time with the family and she was high," said Kriss Blevens, Amber's stepmother.

Kriss and her husband, Mark, remember how after dinner, they would drop Amber off in Manchester and never see her again.

"All I can remember is wrapping my arms around her and holding her but holding her a little tighter than ever before," said her stepmother. "And I just said the words I'm just so glad I said. I love you, Amber. I love you so much."

In the years leading up to her death, Amber's addiction got progressively worse. She'd leave home and live on the streets. She'd sleeps in the alleys of downtown Manchester. Several times, she'd wind up in jail on drug-related crimes.

Her father said there was one thing Amber never fully understood.

"I don't think she really thought it could happen," said Mark Blevens. "I think she thought she was invincible to death."

"He looked right at her and said, Amber, you're going to die," said Mark. "And she just shook her head like, you know, she wasn't really listening. Death did not scare her."

Then, on April 23rd of last year, amber would die of an overdose.

We asked the Blevens if they ever felt guilty for not have preventing her death.

"Other than keeping her locked up and chained up, there was nothing I could do," said Mark.

"Mark and I both together handed her life on a silver platter if she would just reach and take it but she chose the life that she chose," said Kriss.

Experts say it's a disease and when many get hooked, it's extremely hard to let go. That it's something many won't ever recover from while at the same time, the Blevens say they want people to hear their daughter's story and to start talking about what they call the taboo topic of heroin addiction.

"Mark always says you look at obituaries and it never said, died of a drug overdose," said Kriss. "Why? Because our society is ashamed to talk about the truth that addiction is ravaging out communities."

We asked the Blevens how they remember Amber today.

"How do I remember her today?" said Mark. "Angry because she's not here," he said with a short laugh afterwards.

"She's left me less judgmental than I've ever been in my life," said Kriss. "You know I always had the ability to see through her disease and believe in something greater for her."

The Blevens hope that other addicts, like amber, can get clean and stay that way. They say they know people don't have to die like their daughter did.

Meantime, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services says heroin-related overdoses claimed the lives of 68 people last year.
That's nearly double the deaths just a few years ago.
As for how many people are addicted, officials say it's hard to estimate but in 2011, about 11-hundred people were treated for heroin addiction.


--  Dealing with the Disease of Addiction? Click here for help --

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