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New Mexico's fight against drug abuse improves

New numbers released exclusively to KOAT paint an improving picture in New Mexico’s fight against drug abuse.

Twenty of New Mexico’s 33 counties have seen a drop in overdose deaths in the last year. These new numbers are part of county-by-county data from the New Mexico Department of Health.

“A 9 percent drop is 47 deaths, which really important,” Dr. Michael Landen, the state epidemiologist said.

Rio Arriba County, which historically has the highest overdose rate in New Mexico, recorded the biggest decline, with a 30-percent drop since 2014

“They… had 12 fewer deaths in 2015, than 2014,” Landen said.

New Mexico’s overdose rate was the second-highest in the nation in 2014, but fell by its largest percentage in several years.

“We had a two-year decrease in drug overdose deaths in 2012 and 2013 and then our rates went up again in 2014,” Landen said.

While the prescription opioid overdose rate fell in the last year, the number of heroin overdoses in the state grew in the same time.

To combat that problem, two pieces of legislation became law this year.

State Bill 263 requires doctors to check a prescription database to learn which patients have recently filled opioid prescriptions. The second piece puts naloxone into the hands of those who need it.

“The standing order provides both law enforcement and pharmacists the ability to provide naloxone to the people who need it,” Landen said.  

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