November 30, 2015

NM among top in nation for opioid overdoses among young people

Photo Credit: PunchingJudy cc

The rate of young people overdosing in New Mexico is among the top in the nation and doubled in a decade according to a recent report.

Photo Credit: PunchingJudy cc

Naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdose. Photo Credit: PunchingJudy cc

The report by Trust for America’s Health, reported on by Governing, found that 12.5 out of every 100,000 New Mexicans from ages 12 to 25 overdosed in 2011 to 2013. That was an increase from 6.1 out of every 100,000 from 1999 to 2003.

New Mexico is one of just three states with a rate of 12 overdoses among 100,000 young people; the other two are Utah (12.1 per 100,000) and West Virginia (12.6 per 100,000).

Another recent study had found that opioid overdose and abuse rates have begun to go down in New Mexico. That study was conducted from November 2012 to June 2014.

Earlier this year, the White House announced a new way of dealing with heroin abuse on a federal level, one that proved encouraging to the Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico.

Emily Kaltenbach, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico, told NM Political Report earlier this year that she was encouraged by the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program in Santa Fe. Instead of booking those arrested for low level opiate drug offenses, under LEAD those arrested are instead put in treatment programs.

Kaltenbach will be presenting the LEAD program to the Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee Tuesday morning.

New Mexico’s problem with heroin is not new.

In 2008, the New York Times looked at the problem of heroin in Rio Arriba County, an area in Northern New Mexico that has long grappled with how to address a heroin abuse epidemic

The problem was again drawn into relief this year when a political up-and-comer had his life derailed by heroin—which came after using prescription pills.

The Santa Fe New Mexican wrote in October about Carlos Trujillo, a former campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján and the Western States political director for Bill Richardson’s 2008 presidential bid.

However, Trujillo’s life went off-track and this October he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.

From the newspaper:

Trujillo spiraled into heroin addiction after first becoming addicted to OxyContin, a narcotic prescription painkiller.

He had knee surgery at age 28, Trujillo said, and was prescribed the pain medication. By the time his doctor took the prescription away, he was hooked.

Trujillo’s story of turning to heroin after becoming addicted to prescription drugs isn’t unusual—and is becoming more common.

The Taos News reported this weekend on a trend of people going from prescription opioids like percocet and oxydone and moving to heroin when their prescriptions run out.

From The Taos News:

Prescription pills are serving as a gateway drug for many young people, particularly young women, according to Kathy Sutherland-Bruaw, executive director of Inside Out Recovery.

After prescriptions for opioids increased sharply in recent years, she says efforts to reverse the trend may have gone too far in the other direction, prompting those with opioid dependencies to take up heroin as a cheaper alternative to drugs that are harder and harder to find on the street.

The report cited a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from researcheres that showed a national shift from opioids to heroin. The shifts were most pronounced in the Northeast and West, with smaller shifts in the Midwest and South.

The Trust for America’s Health report also found that those who used prescription opioids were much more likely to use heroin.

A joint memorial that would have sought to study the prescription opioid problem and possible solutions passed the Senate in the final days of the 2015 legislative session but failed to pass the House.