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Our Turn: It’s time to end New Hampshire’s opioid crisis

By DONNA SOUCY and STEVE SHURTLEFF Published: 12/5/2019

It is painfully clear to most all of us that New Hampshire is one of the epicenters of our nation’s opioid crisis.

Every community across our state has felt the effects and we’re losing more than 450 fellow residents each year to fatal drug overdoses. It’s time to end the crisis. Working together, we have the power to do that.

Importantly, in areas where we have come together, we are making strides and making sure anyone dealing with a substance use disorder can find help and treatment no more than an hour away from where he or she is. Anyone who is in crisis, or has a family member who is, can call the state’s 211 line and be connected to help.

The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of New Hampshire has brought together state and local leaders to identify real solutions that will help break the cycle of drug misuse and addiction. One important focus is the safe disposal of unused prescription medications. This is an area where any one of us can act – and doing so will help.

Many opioid addictions – especially with young people – start when someone uses a prescription drug in a way other than how it was prescribed and/or takes a medicine originally prescribed to someone else. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80% of heroin users first misused a prescription medication.

There are perfectly valid reasons for some needing to take prescription pain killers. For example, when recovering from surgery. What’s important is those medicines be kept securely – especially out of the reach of children – so that friends and family members don’t misuse them.

Equally important is making sure that you keep prescription medications in the home secure – especially from children and teenagers – and that any unused portion of the prescription medicine is safely disposed of. Keeping medicines in the home “just in case” creates the danger of someone else using them and that misuse can quickly turn to addiction.

There are simple ways to safely dispose of unused medications right at home – ways that make the medication unusable for someone else but also protect the environment. It’s an excellent idea to make a point of regularly cleaning out home medicine cabinets, find unused prescription medications, and safely dispose of them. It’s a simple act that removes the opportunity for misuse from our homes, which in turn can help prevent addiction. The RALI NH site has some tips about how to do that at

As the holiday season quickly approaches, let’s remember that it’s a particularly difficult time of year for anyone struggling with a substance use disorder and the risk of overdose is higher. Keeping prescription medications secure and safely disposing of those that go unused are more important actions than ever.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction – or you suspect they may be – don’t wait to get help. You can start by calling New Hampshire’s toll-free crisis line at 1-844-711-HELP (4357).

We know that Granite Staters have the resolve and power to end this crisis. Working together we can do that, and when we do, we will save lives.

(Donna Soucy is president of the New Hampshire Senate. Steve Shurtleff is speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)

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