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New Hampshire Fire Department Responds to More Overdoses than Actual Fires

While the opioid crisis is bad everywhere you look in the U.S., but few places are struggling as badly as New Hampshire, a state that reportedly holds the highest rate of overdose from synthetic opioids in the country. In fact, overdoses are so frequent in New Hampshire that the Manchester fire department has responded to more overdose calls than calls for actual fires. New Hampshire ranks second in the nation in overdose death rates, passed only by West Virginia.

However, when considering synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, New Hampshire has actually beaten West Virginia's overdose death rate on two occasions. The fact that fentanyl is so popular in New Hampshire is one of the factors that contributes to the state's crisis being significantly worse than some of the other states in the country. Not only that, but because fentanyl is so incredibly potent, those who consume it put themselves at a significantly higher risk of overdose.

Additionally, the high that fentanyl produces lasts a shorter amount of time than that which users will experience while on opioids. Therefore, those who take fentanyl tend to do so more often, which ups their risk of OD'ing even further. Fentanyl can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine, and it can be – and often is – combined with other drugs to make more powerful combinations.

Daniel Goonan, Manchester's fire chief, told CNN that back when he first started out, if firemen "[performed[ CPR once a month, that was a lot." Now, they do it daily. The evening before CNN sat down with Goonan, the Manchester fire department had received about a dozen phone calls that dealt with opioids in some measure or another.

Manchester's proximity also has a lot to do with why opioids are so prevalent in that particular county. Manchester is located about 30 minutes from the Massachusetts border, and it can be reached via a plethora of major roads. This makes Manchester a perfect pit stop for drug traffickers, with the nearby city of Lawrence, Massachusetts seeing some heavy drug activity as well.

The New Hampshire border is profitable for traffickers in that the price they can sell drugs at in New Hampshire is significantly higher than that which they can earn in Massachusetts. The reason for this is assumed to be because of supply and demand; there are more distributors and manufacturers of fentanyl in Massachusetts than there are in New Hampshire, and so traffickers are able to charge – and get – more money for their supplies.

What's worse is that there are many rural communities in New Hampshire which can make seeking treatment more difficult. Longer drives, especially in harsh weather, can discourage people who are battling addiction from seeking the help they need. They may start off interested in receiving treatment, but the obstacles in their way ultimately dampen their motivation and they give up.

Recognizing that its community was desperately in need of help, the Manchester fire department, starting last year, opened each of its fire stations to the public to help people who are struggling with addiction. People can attend a 24-hour program that allows them to seek help without fear of being arrested.