People in recovery are leveraging the occasion of the second annual National Fentanyl Awareness Day to address the pressing crisis of illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) within New Hampshire. The alarming surge in fentanyl-related deaths demands collective action to raise awareness, inform the public, and save lives across the state.

Recent data from local and federal sources underscores the severity of the fentanyl crisis in New Hampshire. The state has witnessed an 11 percent increase in drug overdose deaths within the past year, reaching 486 fatalities—nearly approaching the record set four years prior. As reported by the Boston Globe, this rise reflects a return to levels reminiscent of the height of the opioid epidemic.

In 2022, DEA seized more than 58.3 million pills containing fentanyl and more than 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. This equates to nearly 387.9 million potentially deadly doses of fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is inexpensive, widely available, highly addictive, and comes in a variety of colors, shapes and forms – including powder and pills. Fentanyl is increasingly being found mixed with other substances. Many victims of fentanyl poisoning were unaware they ingested fentanyl.

A critical facet of addressing the crisis is acknowledging the role of fentanyl test strips in harm reduction. For years, advocates have pushed for the legalization of these tools, recognizing their potential to curtail overdose incidents. As New Hampshire grapples with the devastating impact of fentanyl-related fatalities, House Bill 287 has emerged as a beacon of hope. The legislation allows individuals, beyond those participating in syringe exchange programs, to possess testing strips and other materials designed to identify the presence of fentanyl and xylazine in substances.

According to NHPR, during the recent legislative session, multiple initiatives aimed to destigmatize what advocates of harm reduction refer to as essential life-saving tools, given the escalating issue of adulteration and contamination in the drug market. Notably, House Bill 287, which received Governor Sununu’s endorsement on August 4th, marks a pivotal step by granting the general public the right to possess testing strips and related materials designed for the identification of fentanyl and xylazine within substances.

“Fentanyl poisonings appear in a wide range of substances ranging from fake Xanax pills to methamphetamine, leading to a surge in overdose deaths,” said Cheryle Pacapelli , the project director at Harbor Care who oversees the development of recovery centers throughout New Hampshire. “By legalizing harm reduction tools like fentanyl test strips, we can provide individuals with the means to make informed choices and take control of their safety.”

National Fentanyl Awareness Day offers an opportunity for New Hampshire communities to unite and reflect on the devastating impact of fentanyl. The crisis has reshaped the landscape of drug-related fatalities, with synthetic opioids now driving an overdose crisis more lethal than any previous.

As New Hampshire continues to grapple with the repercussions of this crisis, the recovery movement and harm-reduction advocates remains committed to:

  • Supporting the broad distribution of evidence-based harm-reduction tool, 
  • Raising public awareness about the prevalence and dangers of illicit fentanyl, and

  • Collaborating with community organizations, healthcare providers, and lawmakers to devise effective strategies for addressing the crisis.

For more information about fentanyl, its risks, and safety measures, please visit the New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition.

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