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Oct 31, 2014 10:46 PM

NH Heroin Epidemic: How a lethal ingredient could be to blame


CONCORD - Top health officials here in New Hampshire call the heroin problem in our state an "epidemic."

Now officials from dozens of other states are saying the same thing, in addition to doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, the epidemic appears to be getting even worse.

Back in 2012, 65 people died from heroin overdoses in the Granite State.

Last year, there were 70 confirmed cases.

But it gets worse. Right now, there are some 70 more cases pending as doctors await toxicology reports.

Most, if not all of those cases, are suspected to be linked to heroin and that means heroin deaths could be double that of last year's here in the state.

On the streets, they call it smack, black, and tar. In the emergency rooms and morgues across American, it's simply known as heroin.

People are using it more than ever before.

While its use is skyrocketing, people are dying from it in record proportions.

We asked one mother, whose son was once a heroin addict, how bad did it get.

"Oh my God," said Cheryl Pacapelli, his mother. "It got horrible. He was homeless.

Just like any parent, Pacapelli never thought her son would turn to using heroin.

"The struggle," she says, "was just overwhelming."

Her son was using heroin for seven years and then after a dozen treatment centers, he wanted to be clean.

"And he said to me, Mom, I needed to make a decision," Pacapelli said. "What life did I want and he chose recovery. He could have easily died but I believe we don't treat addiction as a disease as it is. We treat it like a broken arm. My son used to go into detox and within three days, they'd let him out and say, go to meetings, you're going to be OK. And he had no chance of survival that way."

And that's exactly why Pacapelli now heads up Hope for New Hampshire Recovery which provides support services for people once they get out of treatment.

Pacapelli works closely with Donna Marston. Marston is another mother whose son was also once addicted to heroin.

"He was living a shattered life and now he's living a wonderful life," said Marston.

Marston now heads up Families Sharing Without Shame.

It's a support group with the goal of reaching families before their children wind up dead.

And here in New Hampshire, that can be a tall order.

"We don't have the resources in the state of New Hampshire," said Marston. "We are number two I think in overdoses, underage drinking, and addiction and we're number 49, which means we're the second to worst state in the country, for resources.

The epidemic is leaving parents everywhere scratching their heads and asking how it could ever happen to them.

Now, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes out with startling new statistics.

According to the report, deaths from heroin overdoses doubled between the years 2010 and 2012 rom nearly 1,800 people to nearly 3,700 people.

Officials say one of the main reasons why more people are dying is that heroin is so readily available and cheap, sometimes as inexpensive as $5 for a bag of it.

"Unfortunately, the prices of it have been way too inexpensive on the streets so it's too easy to access," says Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who recently introduced bi-partisan legislation focusing on education, prevention, and public awareness.

But the trouble is, heroin just got better for users.

"The heroin gets cut with things like fentanyl that makes the heroin much more potent and these drugs together combine and that's why you see more drug-deaths," said Ayotte.

Fentanyl is an ingredient that gives addicts a better, quicker high.

Trouble is, dealers are cutting it and users have no idea how much they're cutting it with making it a game of Russian roulette

It's heroin that's more lethal than ever before.

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