Effort underway in NH to help families of drug overdose victims

By Ray Brewer, WMUR

Friday, August 7, 2015

(Published on WMUR Friday, August 7, 2015)

CONCORD, N.H. —Losing a loved one is tough, but according to experts, those who lose a loved one to addiction face an additional burden.

With heroin deaths on the rise, those who deal with the fallout say family members often feel like they are shunned by society, as if what happened was their fault.

The problem exists nationwide, but a local effort to combat the shame that comes with losing a loved one to addiction is underway.

More than 150 people have died from overdoses this year in New Hampshire.

“When someone is addicted to substances … and someone says, ‘How did he die?’ or ‘How did she die?’ and you feel like you can’t tell anybody,” said Dianne Pepin, executive director of the New Hampshire Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors Association.

“They really are grieving under a cloak, if you will, of stigma and shame and a great deal of blame,” said Tana Bridge, an advanced certified trauma practitioner.

Counselors from all over New Hampshire were in Concord on Friday to learn how to break through the silence.

Daron Friedman has been providing counseling in the Keene area, where he says drugs are claiming the lives of too many young people. He believes that part of the solution is getting everyone involved.

“We’ve done a really good job over the last 20 or 30 years that I’ve been in Keene at making mental health and drug addiction more of a community conversation,” said Friedman.

Barry Timmerman said that while a lot needs to be done in terms of treatment on the Seacoast, he has noticed a change in people’s attitudes, particularly amongst law enforcement.

“They’re beginning to understand more that we’re dealing with people that have an illness because addiction is an illness and beginning to work cooperatively with the folks that are providing treatment,” said Timmerman, a clinical director at Seacoast Youth Services.

According to experts, research in the area of treating survivors who have lost a loved one to addiction is almost nonexistent.