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January 6, 2016

Politicians struggle with opioid epidemic in New Hampshire


Presidential candidates and state politicians have raised concerns over the growing drug crisis in the state of New Hampshire.

The easy availability of cheap heroin and other opiates has contributed to a potential record-breaking 400 deaths in New Hampshire in 2015.

Opioid addiction does not discriminate, according to Holly Cekala of Recovery Supports, Hope for NH.

“You could be tall, short, white, black. You could speak English, you could not. You could be a CEO or you could be a homeless vet,” Cekala said. Many people initially become addicted to opioids when they were prescribed a painkiller by their physician.

Both Republican and Democratic politicians have proposed solutions to the crisis, but much of the problem comes down to a lack of funds in the state budget for prevention and treatment.

Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan said the state needs to increase access to treatment, which involves increasing the federal Medicaid expansion program. Former Republican New Hampshire House Speaker Republican Donna Sytek agrees something needs to be done, but said the state doesn’t spend a lot of money on various programs because of a strong belief in small government.

Key Terms

opioid — substances that act on the nervous system in a similar way to opiates such as morphine, codeine and heroin

substance abuse — overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol or drugs

presidential primary — a preliminary election in which registered political party voters nominate candidates for office and choose delegates to attend their party’s convention; the first two presidential primaries of the 2016 election cycle will take place in Iowa and New Hampshire in February

Warm up questions
  1. What do you know about the state of New Hampshire?
  2. Why is New Hampshire significant to each presidential election cycle?
  3. Why is drug addiction such a large problem throughout the U.S.?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why are presidential candidates focusing so much campaign time on talking about drug addiction in New Hampshire?
  2. What are some of the factors that prevent New Hampshire from being able to offer drug addiction treatment to all of the people who need it?
  3. What should New Hampshire change about its approach toward drug addiction to be able to help more people?
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