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Oct 14, 2015 5:44 PM

NH state crime lab overwhelmed with heroin testing, limited resources


CONCORD - As police and first responders combat the heroin epidemic on the streets - the State Police Forensic Crime Lab fights the heroin problem in the lab.

The lab has seen a disturbing increase in the number of heroin samples, by about 200 more cases a month.

The increase has overwhelmed criminalists, who work more than 12 hours a day to keep up with the demand.

“(We're) definitely seeing more heroin. We are also seeing a big spike in fentanyl cases submitted and analyzed,” said Jennifer Paris, a criminalist at the lab.

The lab currently receives about 750 cases a month - but only has the resources to process about 500 of them.

“The tan powders that we see could be heroin, could be fentanyl, could be acetyl fentanylor it could be something different,” said Paris.

NH1 News tested a batch of unknown powder taken from the city streets.

The powder interacted with a clear liquid and watch. If the substance is in fact an opioid, it eventually turns purple.

“We have actually a good handle on what’s being seen on the street and what’s on our high ways as well,” said Laboratory Director, Timothy Pifer.

One third of the case analyzed here include heroin and/or fentanyl. In the past year, fentanyl has gone from 2 percent of the samples taken in to 10 percent.

The most samples are coming from “Nashua, and Manchester. We’re seeing a vast majority of those submissions from those two cities,” said Pifer.

Police officers, users, dealers. They’re not going to know what it is just by looking at it, just like we can’t,” said Paris.

We won’t be sure if our sample is heroin until the next day, but after all the work analysts do, they said it’s a good chance it will come back positive. The lab is working towards a $60,000 grant that would help alleviate some of the current pressure. But as the drug of choice changes on New Hampshire streets it will be tough to keep up at the lab.

“The reality is that the forensic laboratory will never catch up to the increase submissions of drugs in our state,” said Pifer.


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