New Mexico

New Mexico has a long and important history in North America lasting far back before it was ever a part of the United States. Native cultures flourished in this dry, southwestern area, and many of these same groups still live here today. Despite this culture and the incredible natural beauty of this entire desert area, New Mexico has become known for something else in recent years.

If you ask many of today’s young adults about New Mexico, one of the first things that might come to mind is the famous TV show Breaking Bad. The show took place in Albuquerque and centered around a high school chemistry teacher who became a producer and distributor of methamphetamine. While the show was fictional, it actually does highlight that the state has a serious drug problem.

Drug Facts for New Mexico Use

The following is a breakdown of the New Mexico drug scene:

  • New Mexico is one of the top ten states for illegal drug use among teenagers 12 to 17 years old. It’s also one of the top ten states for teenagers abusing painkillers in the past year.
  • 10.07 percent of residents admit to using illegal drugs in the past month, while the national average is lower at only 8.82 percent of Americans in general.
  • The number of New Mexico residents that die as a direct result of their drug use is far higher than the national average. In this state, 22.2 out of every 100,000 people die as a direct result of using drugs, whereas the national average is 12.8 people per 100,000.

The Drug Problem in New Mexico

Drug use and addiction has been a problem in the United States for over 100 years.  Each year the National Survey of Drug Use and Health conducts a survey to compile data on what drugs American’s use, and in which areas of the country drugs are most prominent.  The survey collects information based on population and age groups for 9 categories of drugs which include: marijuana, heroin, hallucinogens, cocaine, stimulants, inhalants, tranquilizers, sedatives, and prescription drugs that are used for non-medical purposes.

New Mexico is a relatively small state as far as population, but according to the survey it ranks amongst the highest third of states when it comes to drug use.  9 percent of New Mexicans over the age of 12 said they had used illicit substances in the month prior to the NSDUH survey.  For the sake of comparison the states at the low-end of the scale had 5% of their population answer yes to the same question, which means people who reside in New Mexico use drugs almost twice as much as residents of other states.

The NSDUH survey gives detailed statistics pertaining to marijuana, cocaine, and prescription medications taken for nonmedical uses.  By individual drug New Mexico ranks higher than average in all three of these categories, and is in the top 7 of states for cocaine use.

Prescription drug abuse has been at an all-time high in the past decade, and New Mexico’s population is suffering high death rates from overdoses compared to other states.  In 2009 New Mexico ranked number one out of all 50 states for drug related overdoses, with 22.4 out of 100,000 people dying from an OD.  Since that time the state has received a 10 out of 10 rating from the Trust for American’s Health, which is an indication that the state is imposing promising strategies to curb the number of deaths from prescription drugs.

The drugs most commonly used in New Mexico are:

  • Meth is the most-used drug in New Mexico, and it currently is responsible for about 20 percent of all drug treatment admissions in the state.
  • Heroin used to be the most-used drug in the state and was responsible for 20 percent of all treatment admissions. It is now tied with prescription painkillers at 3rd place. This is a decrease, but at 10 percent of all admissions, it’s not as low as authorities need it to be yet.
  • Marijuana has been steadily climbing in usage and in treatment rates. It now accounts for just over 15 percent of all treatment.
  • Cocaine and crack are declining in usage and in treatment admissions. They now account for less than all other drugs in the state, at about 7 percent. This mirrors states across the rest of the country where this class of drug continues to drop in usage as well.

Sources & Resources for New Mexico Drug Treatment New Mexico Drug Control Update –

New Mexico Legislature: Prescription Overdose Deaths in New Mexico  –

My High Plains: New Mexico Ranks High in Combatting Prescription Drug Abuse –