Heroin Anonymous Meetings May Save New Hampshire
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Heroin Anonymous Meetings May Save New Hampshire


New Hampshire Has High Hopes for Heroin AnonymousWith our country in the throes of a national opioid epidemic, it’s becoming almost impossible for the average American to remain untouched by the indiscriminate reach addiction. Suburbs, subdivisions, villages, townships, towns and everywhere in between have been affected by the explosion of opioid addiction—chiefly, heroin abuse. It’s a problem that knows no bounds or bias. In fact, that’s what makes heroin addiction so insidious: it’s as common among brownstones as it is along rural backroads.

New Hampshire has not only been ravaged by heroin use in recent years, but it has also been woefully unprepared when it comes to dealing with the problem. According to a recent article, many New Hampshire communities are embracing the rise of Heroin Anonymous meetings, which could provide Granite State addicts a solid bedrock for their recovery.

Live Free (From Heroin) or Die

An NBC News report revealed that nearly 400 people died from drug overdoses in 2015. It’s a record-breaking number that marks a trend for the state—and not an encouraging one. “With a population of roughly 1.4 million, [New Hampshire] has one of the highest per-capita rates of addiction in the country,” the story said. Unfortunately, the state can’t keep up with its skyrocketing number of addicts. The story cited a 2014 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report that ranked New Hampshire as “second to last” nationwide in having access to treatment. (In case you’re wondering: Texas was last.) Also, the state doesn’t fund any methadone centers, instead residents in need of treatment are forced to rely “on a network of privately-run for-profit clinics to treat the thousands of addicts across the state.” So those without the financial means to obtain treatment have little hope of recovery.

Being ill-equipped to handle a problem and not recognizing that there is a problem are two completely different issues. As a result of the scarcity of support services, dozens of Heroin Anonymous (HA) meetings have cropped up in New Hampshire to fill an ever-growing need for addicts who otherwise have nowhere to go. Part of the problem, too, is the stigma attached to heroin addiction. “Heroin addicts and opioid addicts have a mute voice; they don’t speak out,” Brion M. Carroll told The Keene Sentinel. “They’re ashamed of what they’re doing. [Heroin Anonymous] meetings are there for people, for anyone, struggling with opiate and heroin addiction [so they can] have someone to talk to.” Carroll, who founded an HA group in Nashua, confirmed that the program has quickly taken root. An estimated 600 people attend HA meetings statewide, which is an eye-opening stat considering that Heroin Anonymous has only “existed in the state for 14 months,” according to Carroll. If nothing else, HA programs are clearly bringing a relief that’s as unique as it is personal.

By Addicts, For Addicts

Formed in 2004, the Heroin Anonymous Organization is still pretty young. But what it lacks in longevity, it makes up for in reach: it’s a fellowship “that has groups in Canada, South Africa, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.” While the program was adapted from AA and uses the same 12-step approach, the two organizations aren’t related to one another. Carroll observes that HA “meetings offer a safe, judgment-free place for addicts to openly discuss their addiction.” The meetings also give heroin addicts somewhere to share their specific struggles without worrying about open criticism from, say, AA old-timers who believe heroin addiction has no place in “their” rooms.

A very good friend of mine, a former heroin addict, often tells a story about his father who likewise struggled with heroin before getting clean. The story goes that his dad had reached a rare moment of clarity where he gave himself two choices: attend an AA meeting, or go back out. Remarkably, he chose the meeting. When my friend’s father sat down, he introduced himself by name and said he was an addict. The people in that room didn’t like the sound of that, telling him in no uncertain terms that AA was for alcoholics only. Addicts need not apply. He went back out right after that meeting, thinking: “Well, I guess AA doesn’t even want me.” If Heroin Anonymous had been around at the time, maybe he’d have found sobriety much faster. Similarly, one recovery expert notes that HA works because “you don’t have to pair an AA sponsor with a heroin addict,” which ensures “a successful way to enhance individual recovery.” Perhaps it’s this very distinction that’s helping HA to be so successful: it is run by recovering addicts for recovering addicts.

“No More Suffering”

With its motto of “no more suffering,” Heroin Anonymous continues to quickly spread through New Hampshire. It certainly has the attention of law enforcement officials and policymakers, who recently packed out an HA fundraising and awareness event held in Windham. With so few other treatment options available to addicts, the event helped officials connect with their counterparts from neighboring counties to discuss methods that work and those that don’t. One successful approach in Bedford, for example, doesn’t even involve jail time. “We can take them directly from the police station and refer them right to a recovery coach and get them into treatment,” said Bedford police chief John Bryfonksi.

NH Governor Margaret Hassan is also highly engaged in addiction prevention and recovery programs. Hassan’s advisor and “drug czar” James Vara claims their office has already made considerable strides this year. The state has been spending in all the right places: “Since January 1st, it’s been over $20 million through health and human services, and that’s just health and human services. That’s not the Legislature. $5 million through legislation and also $1.5 million toward Granite Hammer and monies for recovery,” Vara explained. (Operation Granite Hammer is the state’s aggressive new legislation that helps law enforcement officers to arrest drug dealers and destroy the supply side of heroin.)

When it comes right down to it, HA may prove to be the state’s most effective weapon in its fight against heroin abuse through its sheer simplicity and growing accessibility. While the state continues to give law enforcement the power it needs to combat heroin on the front lines, addicts may find the support they desperately need—by sitting in a room and talking to fellow addicts. In giving people a safe place to discuss their shared struggles, Heroin Anonymous may truly deliver on its promise of “no more suffering”—a promise that’s as picture-perfect as the state itself.

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About Author

Paul Fuhr is an addiction recovery writer whose work has appeared in The Literary Review, The Live Oak Review, The Sobriety Collective and InRecovery Magazine, among others. He is the author of the alcoholism memoir “Bottleneck.” He's also the creator and co-host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and recovery. Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and their cats, Dr. No and Goldeneye.