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The Substance Abuse Epidemic in New Mexico


This picturesque state boasts warm weather, breathtaking views and the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths.

While it may be more notorious for its warm weather and beautiful landscapes, the residents of New Mexico aren’t only known for their great outdoors. The state is also believed to have the second highest rate of death by overdose. In fact, it’s only second to West Virginia for the number of addicted residents.

A Big Problem

Substance abuse is spreading across the country with 23 million people addicted and 50,000 drug-related deaths each year. New Mexico is unique in the fact that while most high school students in the state don’t drink, alcohol is the most common substance abused, even more so than prescription pills.

In the state, high school drinking isn’t as common and binge drinking is reported amongst ages 18-24. Moreover, New Mexico has the highest rate of alcohol-related death in the country since 1997.

Teen Drug Use

While teens may not be drinking in New Mexico, they’re using illicit drugs. Over 15 percent reported using drugs in the last month with two-thirds reporting use of marijuana. Many teens aren’t seeking treatment for their addictions either. It’s estimated that 6,000 males and 5,000 females reported not seeking needed treatment for drug addiction.

Another concern is that residents of New Mexico under the age of 18 are unable to take part in syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchange programs potentially prevent exposure to HIV, Hepatitis and other diseases that are spread by sharing dirty needles. In addition, only 43 per cent of adults in New Mexico report being aware of the program and knowing how to use it.

Overdose Deaths on the Rise

While alcohol is certainly a problem in the state, illegal substances are very present on the streets and in hospital emergency rooms. New Mexico is known for having the second-highest overdose rate in the nation. According to the New Mexico Department of Health epidemiology report in 2016, the most common causes of unintentional overdoses were heroin, opioids, muscle relaxants, methamphetamine, and cocaine. During that year, there were 349 opioid-related deaths in New Mexico. Moreover, data shows that opioid overdoses increased by 100 per cent over a five-year period.

Prescription Drug Monitoring

New Mexico has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP) which is a tool used to monitor and address prescription drug diversion and abuse. This program is supposed to monitor patient drugs to prevent any dangerous ‘interactions.’ It’s also used for watching patient behaviour to pinpoint any ‘doctor shopping’ or drug-seeking behaviours. The PMP in New Mexico currently processes over 4,000 requests each day and over 100,000 per month. Reports indicate that during several fiscal quarters much of New Mexico didn’t turn in reports on the number of drugs prescribed or patient prescription drug use.

Despite the program, prescriptions for opioids and other related substances have either remained steady or increased between 2015 and 2016. Another concern is the increase in heroin use across the state. Reports link pain relievers and heroin overdoses to 70 percent of drug-related deaths.

Good Samaritan Law

New Mexico is one of the few states that has a Good Samaritan law. This law allows residents to call for emergency help and receive immunity in the event of a drug-related medical emergency. Despite this, recent data shows that only 30 percent of residents are familiar with this initiative. Meaning, most people may hesitate to seek drug-related medical treatment. It should also be noted that this law doesn’t protect those who are on probation or parole. Currently, it’s estimated that 17,000 adults and 1,000 adolescents would be unable to receive immunity if they sought medical attention after using drugs.

New Mexico Rehab Center

New Mexico has several rehab centres for treating addiction. New Mexico rehab centers have a pleasant atmosphere and a warm climate making it an ideal setting to focus on a healthy recovery.

The treatment centers range widely in both services offered and cost. Fortunately, there are a variety of state-funded resources for those who are dealing with limited financial means.

Payment Assistance Options

Non-profit treatment centres is an available option. These types of treatment centres offer their services for free or low cost. Some treatment centres offer payments on a sliding scale which means the individual is charged based on their income. Some faith-based organizations may offer treatment as part of the ministry. Additionally, some larger treatment centres offer payment assistance programs based on assessment and income.

Rehabilitation Centers in New Mexico

Recovery programs vary in both price and amenities offered to their participants.

Luxury Rehab Programs

The Life Healing Center offers specialized programs for children, teens, and senior citizens to deal with addiction and other mental disorders. Therapies include acupuncture, yoga, and equine psychotherapy.

The Vista Taos Renewal Center offers spectacular mountain views, massage therapy and acupuncture to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Work as You Heal Programs

The Hoy Recovery Center boasts a 40-acre farm where residents are encouraged to participate in growing their own food as well as caring for the chickens, goats, llamas, goats and sheep.

The Shadow Mountain Recovery Center is a program for men that includes woodworking and sports. The 37-acre Taos location has 20 beds. Loved ones are invited to attend family therapy sessions on site.

The Next Step

While New Mexico is a beautiful state to visit, the drug and alcohol addiction rates may not make it the best place to raise a family. While the quality of rehabilitation centers and care is great, not everyone is able to access the programs and services available.

Only time can tell if New Mexico is able to drop the rate of addiction among its residents and encourage steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

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