The New Hampshire Medical Society’s Annual Scientific Conference is just around the corner, scheduled for Nov 6-8, at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside.  The focus, The Many Faces of Addiction, couldn’t be anymore necessarily relevant and timely.  It is an opportunity to have expert speakers from several different vantage points address core issues regarding the spectrum of circumstances impacting the addiction epidemic. It will also offer a forum for those in attendance to share their insight and practice experiences with the speakers, to have an interactive exchange of what the biggest barriers are in reducing the number of people using and abusing opioids in New Hampshire, with an increasing monthly mortality rate.

The devastation of the opioid and heroin addiction continues to increase across the country, with a notable increase in deadly intensity in New Hampshire. “’We have in New Hampshire some of the highest per capita rates of addiction in the United States,” Tym Rourke, chairman of the New Hampshire governor’s commission on drug abuse, told The Daily Beast.’” First in Heroin, First in the Nation to Vote, Crisis Communication, 08.10.15.  The same article describes the situation as “a savage drug epidemic.”  Health care providers (prescribers) are the group of professionals with the necessary competencies who are positioned appropriately to make the most positive changes in the shortest amount of time.  However, in order to move forward as a collective front there need not only be a shared vision with goals, but a clear and accurate historical perspective of how heroin and opioid addiction has ebbed and flowed over the past 40 years in the U.S.  Actually, opium and heroin have been impacting civilizations for centuries and impacting ours for the past 100 years.  “Despite the 1890 U.S. law-enforcement legislation on narcotics, which imposed a tax on opium and morphine, consumption of the drugs, along with heroin, grew rapidly at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.”  History of Opium, Morphine and Heroin, In The Know Zone.

Without being students of history as it pertains to clinical medicine and epidemiology, we set the stage for history to repeat itself in one manner or another.  As a human population we are prone to having similar behaviors recur, but influenced through current day exposures.  Massachusetts is moving forward with their “New Face of Addiction,” a state wide campaign, showcased by WGBH.  “WGBH is initiating a series called “The New Face Of Addiction,” following reports of increasing opioid overdose deaths and addiction problems, in what’s been called a heroin epidemic in Massachusetts. Governor Charlie Baker has pledged to help solve the opioid problem in the state, and made it a priority within his administration.  He organized an Opioid Task force shortly after taking office, and it has made recommendations on how to tackle the problem.”  Schairer, M. The New Face of Addiction: Opioids, Heroin, and The Road To Treatment And Recovery, WGBH News, Aug.10, 2015.

There are many more to follow who are the most unsuspecting to abuse opioids and will turn to heroin for pain control, with and without embedded medical and mental health issues for some, along with resultant suicides and trauma for thousands more, not directly infected by the addiction, yet affected by those who are.

New Hampshire is a standout in so many ways, particularly with our close-knit medical communities throughout the state.  It’s upon providers to pick up the pace, bring more of us together, and raise our collective voice as health care professionals, to change practice patterns, develop public health policy and offer creative and alternative treatment modalities, in order to slow down the addiction epidemic in our state.  The NHMS Annual Scientific Conference is primed for providers to proactively engage and support the campaign.

Our professional actions and personal accountabilities need to come together around this issue more than any other.  It will continue to hammer away on all of us in one way or another.

Register for the NHMS conference today.


Lukas Kolm, MD, MPH