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July 3, 2014

CDC drug report concerns N.H. leaders

A Centers for Disease Control report has some top New Hampshire officials concerned that the state is becoming a haven for prescription drug abuse.

The report, released this week, ranks the Granite State third in the nation in the prescribing, per capita, of highly addictive painkillers that could be potentially abused.

Those painkillers include OxyContin and fentanyl, prescription drugs that can often end up in the wrong hands.

Maine ranked first in the country, Delaware was second and Massachusetts was eighth. Illinois ranked 50th. Opiod pain relievers were linked to 16,917 overdose deaths in the United States in 2011, the report said.

People in the United States consume twice as many of the painkillers than those in the second-ranking nation, Canada. Regionally, the most prescriptions were issued in the South, the CDC said.

The study's release prompted some New Hampshire leaders to immediately express concern Wednesday, including Gov. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Yesterday, other New Hampshire lawmakers issued statements on the subject as well.

"The rising rate of substance use in New Hampshire, especially for highly addictive opiods, is one of our most serious public health and safety challenges," Hassan said. "Prescription drug abuse, which is often linked to heroin use, remains high, and the Centers for Disease Control report reinforces this alarming trend."

The governor said the state is working to quickly put together a prescription drug-monitoring program. There is also a "substance use disorder benefit" available to residents as part of the state's new health care expansion plan, she said.

Hassan also said she recently met with other New England governors to formulate a regional plan to combat the prescription drug abuse problem.

In February, the New Hampshire Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services released its own report on heroin addiction and drug abuse in the state.

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