Drug overdose deaths in New Mexico decline in 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Overall drug overdose deaths in New Mexico are dropping but fatal prescription drugs overdoses are up, state health officials announced Tuesday.

According to newly released numbers by the New Mexico Department of Health, 486 people died in New Mexico in 2012. That’s a 7 percent decrease from the year before.

Records showed that there were 24.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, a decrease from the 2011 rate of 25.9. More males than females died from drug overdoses in 2012. In fact, more than 60.1 percent of drug overdose deaths were to men.

Officials said that overdose deaths from prescription drugs jumped, but the department declined to give details on numbers.

“One of the main concerns is that overdose deaths due to prescription drugs are increasing,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward. “The department is partnering with organizations to increase knowledge and availability of naloxone, which can help reverse an opioid overdose.”

Officials did say that around 1.6 million prescriptions for opioid analgesics were filled in New Mexico from July 2012 through June 2013.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared two years ago that prescription drug overdose deaths have become a national epidemic.

Among New Mexico counties, the troubled Rio Arriba had the highest drug overdose death rate in the state with an average of 67.2 deaths per 100,000 persons from 2008 to 2012. The area, especially the city of Espanola, has long struggled with heroin addiction.

Rural Mora County was second-highest with an overdose death rate of 65. The rate in Bernalillo County — New Mexico’s most populous county — was 28.7 percent.

Drug addiction treatment advocates and the state Department of Health are involved in a number of initiatives and rule changes aimed at preventing drug overdose deaths.

New Mexico had the second highest drug overdose death rate in the nation in 2010.

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