Opiod Facts for New Mexico

  • Since 2008, New Mexico has had one of the highest rates of drug overdose death in the United States.
  • Between 2008-2012, almost every county in New Mexico had a higher drug overdose death rate than the rate for the entire United States.
  • In some New Mexico counties, the overdose death rates were more than five times the national rate.
  • According to CDC, New Mexico had the third highest drug overdose death rate in the nation in 2013, the second highest in 2014, and remained in the highest age-adjusted rate category in the nation in 2015.
  • The New Mexico Department of Health estimates that in 2007 alone prescription opioid abuse, and misuse cost New Mexico $890 million, taking into account costs such as excess medical and prescription costs, lost earnings from premature deaths, and the costs of correctional facility and police services.

Native Americans Hit Hard By Opiod Addiction

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. American Indian tribal leaders from northern New Mexico -- an area of the country devastated by heroin and opioid addiction -- met with the U.S. Justice Department over ways to combat opioid abuse amid high overdose deaths among Native Americans.

And both sides say much more needs to be done.

Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohris spoke with representatives and police chiefs from the eight northern New Mexico Native American pueblos Tuesday as part of a push to combat heroin-related deaths across the state, including Indian Country. They discussed ways for better treatment, the need for more law enforcement resources and the desire for an educational blitz targeting American Indian children as young as 8.

“Here in New Mexico we are facing an epidemic,” U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez said. “One of the (pueblo) governors brought pictures of these hypodermic needles they are picking up on a daily basis.”

New Mexico’s drug overdose death rate was the second highest in the nation in 2014, according to the latest available numbers.

For years, the northern New Mexico city of Espanola and northern Rio Arriba County have had some of the nation’s highest heroin-related death rates. The crisis has overwhelmed cash-strapped law enforcement agencies and emergency workers who often struggle to combat Mexican traffickers who provide users lethal “black tar” heroin via a sophisticated system that resembles pizza delivery.

“It’s a wildfire that’s taking off,” Pueblo of Pojoaque Gov. Joseph Talachy said. “It started off small, but then it took off.”
But now the users have gone underground, and the pueblo struggles to bring non-American Indians to justice because of jurisdiction, Talachy said.
According to the new numbers released Tuesday by the New Mexico Department of Health, Rio Arriba County had the highest drug overdose death rate in the state with 81.4 deaths per 100,000 residents last year.

“The fact is, our state continues to suffer from drug abuse. One overdose death is one too many,” New Mexico Health Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher said.

But health officials say heroin and opioid addiction​ especially has hit American Indian communities across the country as the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers has soared overall, claiming the lives of 165,000 people in the U.S. since 2000.
A National Institute on Drug Abuse survey found that American Indian students’ annual heroin and OxyContin use was about two to three times higher than the national averages from 2009 to 2012.

Heroin and opioid abuse have even stuck in the most remote parts of the country among American Indians.

In Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, for example, state health officials say the isolated area of Alaska Native villages and 25,000 residents has around 500 people addicted to opioids. Most of these Alaska villages don’t have treatment centers for drug users.
Earlier this month, tribal officials in the southwestern Alaska village of Quinhagak banished six people over illegal drugs and alcohol. The move came after the village of 700 residents saw four apparent heroin overdoses in one day.

Meanwhile, a nonprofit prescription drug abuse prevention program in Maine is helping make available the drug Narcan to the state’s five Native American tribes. Narcan, whose generic name is naloxone, is a prescription drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. The program set up five clinics on tribal land thanks to a federal grant.
The Justice Department meeting in Albuquerque is part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education Initiative.



Native American Statistics in the United States



  • Native Americans have the lowest employment rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
  • In the poorest Native counties, only about 1/3 of men in Native American communities have full-time, year-round employment (Beal, 2004).


  • Native students are the only student population that did not improve their reading and math testing scores in grades 4 and 8 from 2005-2011 (The Education Trust, 2013).
  • High school graduation rates are also among the lowest of any population. In the states with the most American Indian and Alaska Native students, less than 50% of Native students graduate, on average. (The Civil Rights Project, 2010)

Housing & Infrastructure:

  • The percentage of homes that are overcrowded on reservations is 3-6 times higher than the percentage of overcrowded homes in the U.S. as a whole (Housing Assistance Council, 2013; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2003; U.S. Census, 2000).
  • As of 2011, there were over 120,000 tribal homes lacking access to basic water sanitation services (EPA, 2012).
  • It is estimated that almost 1 in 10 American Indian homes are without safe and reliable water (Indian Health Service, 2011).
  • More than 60% of the roads within the Indian Reservation Roads system are earth or gravel (NCAI, 2012).
  • Nearly a quarter of IRR bridges are classified as deficient.


* The prevalence of methamphetamine (ME) use among American Indians and  Native Alaskans (AI/NAs) is strikingly high in comparison to other  ethnic groups in the U.S 

  Almost 12 percent of the deaths among  Native Americans and Alaska Natives are alcohol-related — more than  three times the percentage in the general population, a new federal  report says.      


*Native Americans are incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average.

  • Native American youths are 30% more likely than whites to be referred to juvenile court than have charges dropped, according to National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
  • Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
  • Native American men are incarcerated at four times the rate of white men;  Native American women are incarcerated at six times the rate of white  women.
  • Native Americans fall victim to violent crime at more than double the rate of all other US citizens. Eighty-eight percent of violent crime  committed against Native American women is carried out by non-Native  perpetrators.


*16  percent of students at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in 2001 reported having attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months.

*8.4 percent of Native children are in foster care. 

*Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide and suicide account for 75% of deaths for American Indian youth age 12-20.

*High school dropout rates are double the national average over 50 percent in states with the highest Native populations.

*Death rates are 2 to 5 times the rate of Whites in the same age groups resulting from higher levels of suicide and a variety of risky behaviors.

*Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and 2.5 times the national rate for youth in the 15-24 age group.

*22% of females and 12% of males reported to have attempted suicide in the past year.