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NM Battles Overdose Deaths With "Prescription Drug Take-Back Day"

PHOTO: Health officials hope the DEA's Prescription Drug Take-Back event helps reduce the state's high rate of deaths linked to prescription drugs. Photo courtesy U.S. Army.
PHOTO: Health officials hope the DEA's Prescription Drug Take-Back event helps reduce the state's high rate of deaths linked to prescription drugs. Photo courtesy U.S. Army.
April 24, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. – About 500 people die from overdoses each year in New Mexico, according to state health officials who are hoping that events such as National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday help the state lower that overdose death rate.

Melissa Heinz, prevention coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Health, says the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency program provides drop-off points throughout the state for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

"When people have large amounts of unused medication in their medicine cabinets, the risk increases of that medication being stolen or simply used by somebody for whom it was not prescribed, and used inappropriately," Heinz explains.

She says New Mexico is second only to West Virginia in the number of deaths linked to prescription drug overdoses.

Heinz adds that prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and illegal drugs, including heroin, are causing the majority of the overdose deaths.

"We have historically had a very high opioid overdose, and by opioid I'm referring to both prescription medications such as Oxycontin and Hydrocodone, as well as illicit opioids such as heroin," she explains.

The drug take-back locations are set up at Walgreens, police stations and other places across the state.

They're operated by law enforcement due to the handling of controlled substances.

There are reports that more than 10,000 pounds of prescription drugs were collected throughout New Mexico on National Take-Back Day during the last two years.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM