Illicit Drug Overdoses Down 17 Percent In New Mexico

The 2001 illicit drug overdose deaths have decreased 17% from the year 2000 the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator and the Department of Health announced today. Led by Rio Arriba County, with a decrease of 59%, and Bernalillo County, with a decrease of 25%, the yearly number of illicit drug overdose deaths in 2001 is the lowest since 1997 in both Rio Arriba and Bernalillo Counties as well as for New Mexico as a whole.

"This substantial drop in illicit drug overdose deaths is due in large part to effective collaborations between health, law enforcement, and faith communities," said Alex Valdez, Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health. "The fact that Bernalillo County, the county with the highest number of illicit drug overdose deaths, and Rio Arriba County, the county with the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths had such large decreases this year is particularly important," said Dr Ross Zumwalt, Chief Medical Investigator for the State of New Mexico. OMI is affiliated with the UNM School of Medicine, a major component of the UNM Health Sciences Center in Albuqueruqe.

The number of illicit drug deaths in the state decreased from 181 in 1999, to 167 in 2000, and to 139 in 2001. Bernalillo County peaked in 1998 at 98, dropped to 81 in 2000 and to 68 in 2001. Rio Arriba County illicit drug overdose deaths decreased from a peak of 18 in 1999, to 17 in 2000, and to 7 in 2001. Santa Fe County deaths remained at their peak with 19 deaths in 1999, 18 in 2000, and 20 in 2001. Other counties with large numbers of illicit drug overdose deaths include Dona Ana County with a peak of 12 deaths in 1997, 10 deaths in 1999, and 8 deaths in 2001; and Valencia County with a peak of 12 deaths in 1999 and 8 deaths in 2001.

Illicit drug overdose deaths in New Mexico are most commonly caused by heroin; the next most involved illicit drug is cocaine. A substantial number of these deaths are polysubstance deaths that also involve alcohol and prescription drugs.

The other major cause of drug overdose death is prescription drug overdose death. Prescription drug overdose deaths in New Mexico increased from 56 deaths in 2000 to 64 deaths in 2001. In Bernalillo County prescription drug overdose deaths increased from 26 deaths in 2000 to 28 deaths in 2001. The previous peak in Bernalillo County had been 20 deaths in 1992. Rio Arriba County had 4 prescription drug overdose deaths in 2001. The highest number of 5 deaths occurred in 1990 and 1996. Santa Fe County had 6 prescription drug overdose deaths in 2001 and 5 deaths in 1999.

Combining illicit drug overdose death with prescription overdose deaths produces the total drug overdose death numbers. With respect to these numbers in New Mexico there were 219 deaths in 1999, 223 in 2000, and 203 in 20001. For Bernalillo County the peak of drug overdose deaths occurred in 1998 with 117 deaths, 107 deaths in 2000, and 96 deaths in 2001. For Rio Arriba County there were 21 drug overdose deaths in 1999, 17 in 2000, and 11 in 2001.

Contact: Sam Giammo, 272-3322

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