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Dartmouth undergrad examines opioid death toll

Conducting the first comprehensive analysis of prescription opioid-related deaths in New Hampshire presented some special challenges for Laura Hester, a geography major in the Dartmouth College Class of 2009. It involved driving an hour each way from Hanover, N.H., to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Concord almost every other day for two months in the winter. It required combing through the 1,500 death certificates from 2003 to 2007 that were loosely classified as involving "toxic substances" in order to find the 488 deaths that were due to prescription opioids. And since the certificates exist only in paper form, it required hours and hours of data entry. But all that hard work yielded a "high-quality" database, says her advisor, and an "excellent" and "very ambitious" senior honors thesis. Read More...



  • View a map of New Hampshire showing prescription opioid-related death rates from 2003 to 2007. Rates in very rural areas have been "smoothed," meaning they have been adjusted to account for very small populations.
  • View two graphs showing the age-specific prescription opioid-related death rates for men and women in New Hampshire from 2003 to 2007.

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