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Drug Abuse

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual defines “substance use disorder” as the use of alcohol and/or drugs causing clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home.

Substance use disorder is common, recurrent, and often serious, but they are treatable and many people do recover. Like all diseases, Substance use disorder requires the right care. It affects people from all communities and all age groups.

Drug and alcohol-related deaths reached all-time highs in 2020 New Mexico has long had some of the highest death rates from alcohol and drugs in the country and the problem continues to worsen. Since 1990, drug overdose deaths have increased by 572 percent and alcohol-related deaths have increased by 165 percent, with more than 43 thousand New Mexicans dying from those causes over the 30-year period. The deaths in a single year reached their highest point yet in 2020, with 1,770 alcohol-related deaths and 766 overdose deaths. Consistent with the rise in absolute numbers, death rates related to substance abuse increased sharply over the last few years. In 2016, the state’s alcohol-related death rate was 66 per 100,000 people, nearly double the national rate of 34 per 100,000 people. By 2020, New Mexico’s alcohol-related death rate rose another 34 percent to 88.5 deaths per 100,000 people. Similarly, from 2016 to 2020, the state’s drug overdose death rate increased by 54 percent. In 2019, the last year for which federal data is available, New Mexico’s overdose death rate was 40 percent higher than the national rate. Over 43 Thousand New Mexicans Have Died of a Drug Overdose or Alcohol-Related Cause Since 1990 Drug overdose deaths Alcohol related deaths Source: DOH 


Commonly Used Drugs In New Mexico

Fentanyl and methamphetamine have surpassed heroin and prescription opioids as the leading causes of overdose deaths, contributing to 78 percent of those deaths in New Mexico in 2020.

8,700 patients received buprenorphine through Medicaid to treat opioid dependence in 2020—a 126 percent increase since 2014.

The state tripled spending on substance abuse treatment from 2014 to 2020 and increased service delivery by 85 percent

Legal Impact Of Drug Crimes


Criminal penalties associated with illegal possession of controlled substances are:

  • Monetary fine between $100 to $1,000 for a first offense petty misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in jail and a fine for a full misdemeanor
  • Prison sentence not to exceed 18 months for fourth-degree felony
  • Prison sentence not to exceed 3 years for third-degree felony

How you’re penalized depends on multiple factors, but the point is, if you possess illegally, you’re putting yourself, your future and everything you love at risk. It’s not a gamble you want to take.

Talking To Your Children About Drug Abuse


The most powerful and effective tool you have when tackling the topics of drugs and alcohol with your child, is conversation.

Conversing with your child and keeping an open line of honest communication that comes from a place of love, can be the best protection you give them in a world full of pressures, temptations and options.

At preschool age, lay the foundation for a consistent healthy life for your child. Introduce them to daily vitamins and talk with them about how good it is to take care of your body. Discuss dangerous the dangers of certain chemicals and explain to them that they should only take medications that have their name on the bottle.

At elementary ages, your child may be growing in curiosity and attempting more to express their individuality. That’s a good thing! Allow them to pick out their own clothes whenever possible and encourage them to make decisions for themselves. Explain more—discuss things like “just because it’s in the family medicine cabinet, it doesn’t mean it’s meant for you.”

At pre teen ages, your child may be pushing back more against your views as they try and figure out their place in the world. Keep the conversations going. Talk with them about being exposed to drugs and alcohol, even by their friends who could be experimenting. Explain to them that trying just once can cause damage not only to themselves, but also to their dreams of becoming a professional hockey player, teacher, president, chef… Let them know it’s okay for them to tell you anything, and that if they ever need to use you as an excuse to get out of a situation where they’re offered drugs, they should.

For your teen, this is a crucial time for you to be investing in helping them make positive choices when faced with drugs and alcohol. Teens are pretty savvy on this topic and need direct, reality-driven messages from you. As they go in to high school, let them know of the very real pressures they’ll face from peers regarding street drugs, prescription drugs, pot and alcohol. Just because they say no to those things, that doesn’t make them weird because there are others saying no too. Let them know they can still have fun without trying or using. If you find their group of friends’ changes, ask them about it and ask them about who their new friends are. If they come home and it’s clear they’ve been drinking or smoking, keep your response measured and serious, without yelling or exuding too much emotion. Let them know you’re upset because you care and then ask them to tell you about it.

These are just pointers to get you to consider how powerful and effective conversations can be with your child in helping them make wise decisions when confronted with drugs and alcohol. Start early, start now.

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