New Mexico is facing a widespread drug problem that includes prescription drug abuse, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, according to the Associated Press.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that New Mexico led the nation in prescription drug overdose death rates. Teen drug use is far above the national average, and there are an estimated 25,000 people addicted to drugs who use needles in the state, according to the article. More than 50 percent of inmates in state prisons and local jails are arrested for drug-related crimes.
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, in 2007, drug overdose was the leading cause of unintentional injury death in New Mexico and accounted for 9.6 percent of lost life due to premature death.
One reason for the trend is the low price, high purity and easy availability of drugs, according to the AP. One undercover operation found heroin was being sold for $100 per gram, the same price as in 1977. The drug’s purity was three to four times the purity level of heroin sold a decade ago. Heroin is less expensive than prescription painkillers sold on the street.
Young people are not the only ones using drugs. Of the 2,200 drug-induced deaths from 2005 to 2009 in New Mexico, about 1,900 were adults 25 years or older.
The state is taking steps to fight the rise in drug abuse. The State Board of Pharmacy voted earlier this summer to increase monitoring of prescription painkillers, and the State Medical Board is making voluntary guidelines on prescription painkillers mandatory for doctors and other health care workers.