Pubdate: Mon, 27 Mar 2000
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (NH)
Copyright: 2000 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Contact:  333 Central Ave., Dover, NH 03820
Author: Associated Press


HAMPTON, N. H. (AP) -- If any of the 40 people arrested in the recent
breakup of a heroin ring want to break their addictions, they might find
help is hard to come by.

Law enforcement involved in the lengthy investigation along New Hampshire's
seacoast have said they were shocked at how pervasive heroin has become.

But those who treat drug addicts say it's the lack of resources that is most

Ray McGarty, executive director of Southeastern New Hampshire Services, said
it is rare for any of his organization's facilities to have an open bed.

"We need more treatment," he said.

Addicts entering the clinics are treated with non-narcotic medication and
then stay for about a week for detoxification. They then wait to get into
one of the state's two facilities that offer month-long treatment. Patients
usually spend another three months in a halfway house operated by the

"People do recover," McGarty said. "The craving does not last forever."

But waiting for an opening may seem like it takes forever. The agency has
offices in Dover, Portsmouth, Exeter and Rochester, but only six beds for
those entering detoxification programs.. As many as 10 people per night seek

In 1997, the state spent an average of $5.47 per person for alcohol and
other drug treatment, according to the National Association of State Alcohol
and Drug Abuse Directions. That was less than all other New England states
and about half the national average.

"It's peanuts; we are down there with worst of the worst," McGarty said.

McGarty said his agency saw the results of the increased heroin traffic
months before the recent arrests.

"Nine months ago, if you had asked me what drug we see the most, I could
have said alcohol with cocaine being number two. In the last nine months,
that switched almost overnight to heroin. It's the dramatic availability of

The 40 people in arrested in what police called "Operation Lifesaver" were
mostly street-level dealers selling to pay for their own habit. Seven of
them were in Hampton District Court last week for probable hearings.

One of the defendants was ordered to report to a drug clinic, but finding
treatment for heroin addiction in particular is difficult. Only one New
Hampshire clinic dispenses methadone, a drug used to wean addicts off
heroin, leaving hundreds of people to travel to other states for treatment.

New Hampshire is one of only eight states that prohibit long-term use of
methadone to treat heroin withdrawal. Under state law, addicts can receive
doses of the drug for only six months, but the state Senate recently passed
two bills to make it easier for addicts to get methadone.

One bill would remove the time limit for methadone treatment while state
officials decide on a policy for treating heroin addicts. The other bill
repeals the statute that bans methadone and asks state officials to draw up
rules for dispensing it.

Southeastern New Hampshire Services uses a non-narcotic medication instead
of methadone. McGarty disputes the notion that methadone is the best way to
clear up heroin addiction.

"Methadone is not the most effective approach," he said. "You're using drugs
to treat a drug problem. People have to go through a significant personality
change; it's not an easy thing initially."
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