The state Department of Health and Human Services said data in a new report "Prescription Pain Medication Misuse" shows approximately one in eight young adults - or 12.3 percent - reported abusing pain relievers in the past year. The information was part of the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The national average for the age group is 10.4 percent while the region's average is 10.2 percent.
The department said New Hampshire also experienced its highest number of drug-related deaths in 2011. The state medical examiner reported 200 drug-related deaths and about 80 percent involved prescription drugs.
The department's Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services said information collected in 2012 shows a possible behavioral change with fewer drug-related deaths and abuse of pain relievers.
"The 2012 data appears a little better, but we don't have enough information to determine if the changes indicate a clear and positive change in the trend. Unfortunately, we are seeing some individuals dependent on prescription pain medication switching to heroin as a cheaper and more available substitute," said bureau director Joe Harding.
Addition to opioids such as oxycodone also is rising, the state reported. In 2010, oxycodone became the second most prevalent drug abused after alcohol among people entering state-funded substance abuse treatment. The state also said an increasing number of babies are being born in New Hampshire with symptoms of withdrawal from opioids used by the mother while pregnant.