Oct 31, 2014 10:38 PM

NH heroin death rate surging as Seacoast community, state leaders try to combat the problem


CONCORD - The number of heroin-related deaths is skyrocketing not only throughout the country but right here in New Hampshire.

The number of people dying from heroin overdoses began spiking in 2010 and spiraled out of control through 2013.

The number of people who died from the epidemic this year are still being calculated but experts say whatever those numbers are, it doesn't look good and most won't even begin to estimate how many people will die of a heroin overdose this year.

We interviewed two New Hampshire mothers who know the painful reality of heroin addiction all too well.

When asked how bad it got, Cheryl Pacapelli, a mother whose son was addicted for seven years told us, "Oh my God. It got horrible. He was homeless."

The same holds true for mother Donna Marston. Marston told us, "the curse of addiction almost destroyed my child and my family."

Both had sons who used heroin for long periods of time but both are now in recovery.

And now, both lead support programs to help New Hampshire families in their battle against heroin addiction.

"I think it has been on the radar but I think what we're seeing is the people dying from it and just the public outcry from that," said New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General James Vara of the drug prosecution unit.

Vara says one of the reasons it's getting worse is that dealers are cutting heroin with an ingredient called fentanyl which is both lethal and deadly.

"It's a quicker high," Vara says. "It's a short high but it's higher.

When we asked Vara if he thought users realized it could be deadly, he told us, "No. No. They don't know what they're getting. They're not buying heroin in the store. They don't know that it's laced with fentanyl and as a result, people are dying. They're using similar results and as a result, death happens."

And on New Hampshire's seacoast, law enforcement is doing its best to keep up with the number of people overdosing.

EMT's are trained in using Narcan which is used to reverse the effects of heroin and essentially bring a person back to life.

All this, as New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte introduces bipartisan legislation trying to put a dent in the epidemic.

"Prevention, public awareness, enforcement for those who are making a profit, but for those who are addicted getting them treatment so that they can live productive lives," said New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. "Unfortunately, the prices of it have been way too inexpensive on the streets so it's too easy to access."

As for Vara, the outlook appears bleak.

"We're in a state that has not had available treatment," says Vara. "We're in a state that we do the best with what we can with the resources we have."

These two mothers doing their best to be a resource to other families while at the same time, they're thankful their sons are in recovery and not dead of an overdose.

We asked both if they thought it was too late to stop this epidemic from getting worse.

"It's never too late," said Marston. "We always have our hope."

Pacapelli agrees. "I don't think it's too late either," she says. "We really have to take action. This is a community problem. Everyone needs to be involved up here."


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

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