New Mexico Faces Unique Threats in Addiction Crisis

New Mexico city
Photo by Sean Pavone/

Since the turn of the century, the United States has struggled with a growing drug problem. And while every state has felt the burden of this crisis to some extent or another, different states experience the problem differently. Some states are more affected by the addiction epidemic than others.

New Mexico is one such state. Though it is the 37th least populated state in the country, New Mexico still experiences higher than average drug-related deaths. Sadly, the state experiences unique problems and difficulties that exacerbate its drug problem. New Mexico residents must determine not only what these challenges are; but also how to address them. And most importantly, New Mexico residents must have access to addiction treatment programs.

Addiction Statistics

Though New Mexico is a fairly rural state with a population of only about two million, hundreds of people still die from drug overdoses in the state every year. And this is not a new problem. Like much of the country, the drug abuse trends and the resulting loss of life have been haunting New Mexico families since the early-2000s. In 1994, about seven people died every year in New Mexico for every 100,000 people living in the state. But by 2003, that number had soared to almost 17 deaths for every 100,000 people.

New Mexico has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the United States. The state’s current fatal overdose rate (24-26 deaths for every 100,000 people) is about 29 percent higher than the national overdose rate of 20 fatalities for every 100,000 residents.

About two out of every three overdose deaths in New Mexico involve some type of opioid. But with that being said, the methamphetamine death rate in this state is also on the rise. The number of methamphetamine deaths in New Mexico has almost tripled from 2013 to 2018.

In 2018, 537 people lost their lives to drug overdoses in New Mexico. That means someone dies from a drug overdose in that state every 18 hours. And while the state has made progress in cutting back opioid painkiller prescribing numbers, benzodiazepine prescribing is still not being curtailed, illicit opiate use is rampant, and meth abuse is on the rise.

Bottles at home
Photo by Chris Y. Hayward/

New Mexico public health officials correctly estimate that the drugs most often associated with fatalities in the state are prescription opioids, heroin, illicit fentanyl, tranquilizers, cocaine, and antidepressants. Every year, more people die from drug-related causes in New Mexico than those who die from vehicle accidents or firearms.

In addition to having a highly lethal drug problem, New Mexico also has one of the country’s most lethal alcohol addiction crises. The state continues to experience about 60 to 70 alcohol-related deaths each year for every 100,000 residents. Compare that to the national average, which is about 34 deaths for every 100,000 residents. In fact, New Mexico has ranked first, second, or third in the entire nation for fatal alcohol poisonings every year since 1981.

When Demand for Drugs Goes Up, Innocent Populations Suffer

When considering the drug problem in New Mexico and the drug trafficking that occurs in that state, it’s important to remember that innocent people in both New Mexico and Mexico suffer from this problem. This is not an “Us versus them” problem. Instead, it’s a matter of the peoples of New Mexico, the state, and Mexico, the country, tackling addiction problems and the drug cartels that supply the drugs for those addictions.

When demand goes up in the States, cartels in Mexico seek to meet that demand by flooding more drugs into the U.S. Because New Mexico is a border state, it often experiences the brunt of cartel trafficking operations. As the demand for drugs increases, both the peoples of Mexico and New Mexico suffer. That’s why it’s so critical to get help for those who are addicted. If the demand for drugs drops due to addicts seeking treatment and getting off drugs, drug trafficking will also decrease.

Unique Struggles and the Necessity for Effective Change

Proximity to major drug cartels just over the border, a large, open, mostly rural demographic that makes it difficult to crack down on drug-related crime, and economic struggles are just some of the factors that exacerbate drug addiction issues in New Mexico.

The list of what can be done to correct those issues is not unknown. New Mexico will have to increase access to public health services for its population. Local communities will have to work harder to improve conditions. Cities and towns may need to find new and innovative ways to boost their local economies. Households will have to get educated about drugs, and parents will have to teach their kids about the harms in drinking and drug use. Rural areas and cities alike will have to work together with law enforcement to prevent drug trafficking.

All of these efforts will help improve conditions in New Mexico. But without a doubt, the most important thing would be that those who currently struggle with addiction are helped into drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs as soon as possible. There will be no lasting, meaningful change in the New Mexico drug crisis until those who struggle with addiction are helped into a clean and totally drug-free life.

Helping a Loved One Get Treatment

Photo by fzant/

Addiction is not a temporary ailment or struggle that people can easily overcome on their own. For people to experience lasting freedom from drugs and alcohol, they’ll have to seek the help of drug and alcohol treatment centers. Drug rehabs can offer safe, effective, and meaningful programs that tackle the root of addiction. When addicts have access to useful tools and methodology, they can flush out the underlying reasons why they struggle with addiction in the first place.

If someone you care about is struggling with a drug problem, there are answers. There are treatment options for overcoming addiction, and for attaining a sober, healthy, substance-free life. Make sure your loved one is helped into a drug and alcohol treatment center as soon as possible. Drug and alcohol addiction is a dangerous situation. But it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Make sure your loved one gets help today.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.