New Mexico Overdoses Decline For Second Straight Year

By McCarton Ackerman 09/05/14

Could the drop in states like New Mexico and Georgia be the start of a national trend?

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Although New Mexico still has among the highest drug-overdose rates in the country, a new report has confirmed that the overall number is continuing to decline.

Recent national data shows that drug overdose deaths in the state dropped from to 521 in 2011 to 449 in 2013, while the rate of these deaths dropped from 25.9 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 21.8 per 100,000 in 2013. Although New Mexico only ranks behind West Virginia in the rate of overdose deaths per capita, state epidemiologist Michael Landen called the 16% overall drop “significant.”

Landen attributed this improvement to the state’s major change in 2012 to how prescription painkillers are dispensed. A web-based prescription drug monitoring program was built that gives instant information to doctors about a patient’s use of opioids and prevents them from obtaining prescriptions from several different doctors and pharmacies. A State Department of Health report from last month showed that the total number of prescribed opioids dropped 19% from 2010 to 2013.

Other states have also reported drops in drug overdoses. Officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed that the number of cases last year involving overdose deaths was the lowest it had been in five years.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School reported that states which legalized medical marijuana have 25% fewer overdose deaths than states which have not. Although the study did not attempt to explain the correlation between the two, it suggested that medical marijuana could have unintended benefits in terms of pain management.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.