New Mexico had the second highest total drug overdose death rate in the nation in 2011.
In effort to combat the issue, the New Mexico Human Services Department’s Office of Substance Abuse Prevention, announced a new campaign Tuesday called “A Dose of Reality.” The campaign aims to inform teens and parents of the serious risks involved and how to properly handle and dispose of medications.
According to the release, 49 percent of unintentional overdose deaths were the result of prescription painkillers.
Now ranked 3rd in the nation, state officials want to see more improvements as far as decrease unintended deaths and addictions.
Two-thirds of teens who abuse pain medicine report accessing it from family members or friends, by merely opening a medicine cabinet.
Matt Kennicott, director of external affairs for the New Mexico Human Services Department, said the campaign will focus on using social media to reach out to teens.
“We will be talking to anybody that wants to hear us, but especially to school groups, PTAs, leaders in the community, any amount of folks that can help make a positive impact on the problem of prescription abuse by young people,” he said.
Kennicott said one of the biggest questions is why this is such a major problem in New Mexico. It is something everyone wants to know.
“I don’t know if there is a single answer for that or even a good answer for it,” he said.
Along with local outreach, the campaign produced three, short commercials relating the seriousness of painkiller overdose. All 16 seconds long, each ad focuses on the deadliness of prescription drugs.
Two of the videos titled “Heroin” and “Cocaine,” begin with the said drug being placed in a RX bottle while the number of fatalities related to the respective drug flash on the bottom, which is then followed by the rising number of fatalities related to prescription drug abuse.
The third ad, titled “Pedicure,” starts a little more light-hearted. Three girls are painting their nails talking about how much they love the drug and can’t believe Sarah still has them a year after a knee surgery. When one of the girls tries to verify the information with Sarah, they realize, a little too late, that Sarah isn’t responsive.
According to the press release, prescription painkillers kill almost three times as many people as heroin. This is because many teens believe prescription drugs are safer to use than illegal drugs, like heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine and cocaine/crack.
The Center for Disease Control lists New Mexico as the state with the highest drug overdose death rate which is more than eight times that of the state with the lowest rate. New Mexico’s overdose death rate for 2010 (23.8 per 100,000 population) is above the national rate (12.4 per 100,000 population).
Kinnecott said a lot of teens think the drugs are safer because they are prescription as opposed to illegal drugs, that they won’t harm someone as much.
“Many teens get hooked on prescription painkillers after a sports injury or something similar to that,” he said. “That is also a danger that people need to be educated on.”
According to a survey done in 2013 by the New Mexico Department of Health, eight and a half percent of high school teens reported using painkillers to get high at least once in the past 30 days. Bernalillo County reports 10 percent of high school students, while San Miguel county reported more than double that at 18.5 percent.
The campaign is being funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.
Moriah Carty is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@MoriahCarty.