Medical Examiner: Fentanyl plays role in most overdose deaths across state


LACONIA — Dangers posed by the powerful synthetic opioids fentanyl and carfentanil were on full display Thursday with new statistics released by state and local authorities.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said his office is reviewing 39 cases involving carfentanil, 18 people have been indicted in connection with the drug in the last month and 10 people have had fatal overdoses on it.

“As the chief law enforcement officer, it is my continuing priority to stop the distribution of this deadly drug,” he said in a news release. “Those responsible for carfentanil-related crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, based on the facts of each case.”

As of June 29, there were 143 drug deaths in the state this year, with fentanyl playing a role in more than 100 of them, according to the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Overdose deaths are confirmed through toxicological examinations that take weeks, so the true death toll is likely much higher. Last year, there were at least 486 drug deaths in the state, with fentanyl playing a role in most of those cases.

The drug has helped drive an increase in yearly drug deaths, which totaled less than 200 in 2012.

Carfentanil is related to fentanyl, but 100 times more potent. It is especially dangerous because it can be absorbed through the skin, so anyone who comes into contact with it can overdose by touching, inhaling or ingesting it.

Meanwhile, Laconia overdoses have increased sharply this year. Statistics on fatal overdoses in the city were not available.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said his department handled 79 overdoses in 2014, 127 in 2015 and 161 in 2016. This year, there have already been 182 overdoses.

Also, a particularly potent batch of heroin is believed responsible for an increase in overdoses in Laconia this summer.