Police Keeping Watch on Rise of Meth in New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Crystal meth is on the rise in New Hampshire, entering the state through main highways like Interstate 95, but Seacoast police say use of the drug does not appear to be increasing at the same rate in their cities and towns.

State Police Lt. John Hennessey said “exponentially” more meth has been discovered in traffic stops on I-95 and other highways the last two years. The state crime lab, which receives all drugs collected by police in investigations, saw meth cases rise from 52 in 2014 to 182 in 2015, 404 in 2016 and 834 in 2017. There were 522 meth cases this year through July 31.

Still, local departments like in Portsmouth and Hampton say the opioid fentanyl has remained the most prominently used illicit narcotic and the number of meth cases remains consistent now with those from past years.

Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Merner said his investigators make meth arrests on occasion but have not seen a steady increase seen in places like the Lakes Region. Hampton Police Chief Richard Sawyer said his department has not worked a meth case this year, and he believes the prominence of fentanyl use observed is not being slowed by the availability of meth.

“If the supply… gets knocked down and is dented by law enforcement and other factors, people will switch to something else,” Sawyer said. “I suspect that we’re not seeing any dramatic decline in the number of people that are overdosing (on opioids) now.”

Parts of New Hampshire including the Lakes Region and parts of Strafford County have observed an increase.

Dean Lemire, an assistant project director for the Statewide Peer Recovery Support Services Facilitating Organization at Harbor Homes, said meth’s presence has risen dramatically among those with addiction in Strafford County. He said the drug had a presence there before fentanyl became more widely used, but the past two years have seen meth increase significantly, including intravenous use.

Maine has also seen a rise in meth use, according to published reports. Maine State Police on Thursday responded to a home in Hollis in York County for a reported drug overdose and found a methamphetamine lab inside the residence. Troopers there found eight active meth labs in the bust, as well as 25 used labs.

Officials say the statewide rise of meth, a drug police say has always been less prominent in New England, has not come close to bringing New Hampshire in line with states in the South and West where the drug is more rampant. Fentanyl cases have also remained at least twice as common in New Hampshire as meth with the state lab having analyzed fentanyl in 2,202 cases last year and 1,113 through July 31 in 2018.


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