As voters head to the polls in New Hampshire for the first presidential primary of 2024, one of the most important issues in the state is the fentanyl crisis.
Jess Carter is out on the streets five days a week with the nonprofit Revive, helping people dealing with active drug addiction. She told CBS News accidental poisonings from fentanyl are something she sees all the time.
We don’t want to continue losing our friends, our family, our community members,” she said. “Especially when there’s a simple answer to reversing it right here.”
That answer, according to Carter, is something called harm reduction. She said the method is effective because it meets drug users “where they are.” Her view is shaped by her own experience as a former college athlete who struggled with addiction herself.
Revive, one of the longest-running recovery programs in New Hampshire, hands out things like clean syringes, fentanyl testing strips and other supplies to help keep those dealing with addiction alive and to help prevent infectious diseases.
“We are allowing people to make a better choice for themselves,” Carter said when asked how she responds to critics who say these actions help people continue to abuse drugs. “We’re allowing people to believe in themselves when others might not believe in them. It’s that first step that people can take.”
For people like Shawn, who said his drug problems began when he got divorced, the work Carter does with Revive can be lifesaving.
“I took this little tiny piece of what I thought was crack cocaine and I inhaled it and I, I went down,” Shawn said. “It took six Narcans for, uh, to get revived.”
“I feel that I could have that chance to die every single day,” Shawn added. “I could have died last week and I’m afraid for other people too.”
Nearly 110,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2022, with roughly one-third of those deaths being attributed to fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The epidemic of overdoses is a topic presidential candidates have brought up in New Hampshire, with former President Trump taking aim at Mexican drug cartels while former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley pointed the finger at China.
While Carter agrees the flow of drugs needs to be stopped, she said the heart of the issue is trauma and mental health.