Harm Reduction in New Mexico

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is committed to reducing the harms associated with drug use in New Mexico. Our priorities include expanding naloxone access, broadening 911 Good Samaritan Law immunity, increasing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) access, and establishing a Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) pilot program.

Preventing Overdose

New Mexico has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation, and one of the highest per capita heroin-related death rates. One person dies nearly every day of a drug overdose in New Mexico. DPA is engaged in several initiatives to help prevent overdose deaths in New Mexico.

Naloxone (also called Narcan®) is an inexpensive, FDA-approved generic drug that works to reverse an opioid overdose by restoring breath to unconscious overdose victims.

The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until one to three hours after they have taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others. This leaves a significant amount of time for witnesses to intervene and call for medical help.

In addition to calling 911 for help, witnesses to opiate overdoses can administer the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. It is standard practice for emergency personnel to administer naloxone when summoned to the scene of an overdose. We can save previous time and lives if laypeople who witness an overdose have the ability to administer naloxone as well. It has no addictive properties and few side effects, making it safe for laypeople to administer.

DPA staff in New Mexico are working to expand naloxone access to encourage use of this life-saving drug including advocating for access in all New Mexico jails upon release.

911 Good Samaritan Law
In 2007 New Mexico was the first state to pass 911 Good Samaritan Legislation that protects overdose witnesses and victims who seek medical attention from arrest and prosecution for simple drug offenses. While this was an important victory, the law does not protect an individual on probation or parole.

17,078 adults in New Mexico are on probation or parole and 1,402 juveniles are on supervised probation. DPA is working to broaden the 911 Good Samaritan law to cover these individuals. This will improve emergency overdose response and save lives.

Safer Partying
DPA advocates for sharing reliable, accurate information about commonly used drugs so we can promote public health and reduce the harms around drug use.

In 2016 our New Mexico office produced a booklet designed to encourage safer partying at music festivals and concerts. It contains information about drugs like MDMA and LSD, drug checking resources, and tips for people stopped by police officers at a music event. We distribute this booklet online and at events to help spread harm reduction messages across the state as part of our #SaferPartying campaign.

Read the #SaferPartying booklet.

Increasing Access to Effective Treatment

People struggling with addiction need access to effective treatment options. Our initiatives in New Mexico include increasing access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and establishing a Heroin Assisted Treatment pilot program.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Buprenorphine and methadone are two commonly used medications to treat dependence on opioids such as morphine, heroin, codeine, dilaudid, OcyContin, and fentanyl.

DPA advocates for:

  • Offering incentive programs to increase the number of MAT providers.
  • Offering Office-Based Opioid Treatment Programs that include methadone. Under OBOT programs, treatment takes place in a physician’s office instead of a clinic.
  • Providing MAT in criminal justice settings, including jails, prisons and drug courts. Approximately 7,400 people are incarcerated in New Mexico. One-quarter have an opioid use disorder.Providing or continuing MAT to opioid dependent persons while incarcerated reduces problematic opioid use when they are released release, which also reduces recidivism and overdose death.

Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT)
DPA is working to establish and implement a Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) Pilot Program in New Mexico. Under HAT, pharmacological heroin is administered under strict controls to those who were unresponsive to other MAT in a clinical setting. The heroin is consumed on site to ensure the drug is not diverted.

HAT programs have been implemented around the world with much success. Findings from randomized, controlled studies have shown that:

  • HAT reduces drug use
  • HAT reduces crime
  • Retention in HAT surpasses those of conventional treatment
  • HAT can reduce the black market for heroin
  • HAT can be a stepping stone to other treatments, even abstinence
  • HAT is cost effective

Previous Victories

Opioid Overdose Prevention (2016)
On March 3rd 2016, an opioid overdose prevention bill that sailed through the New Mexico State Legislature with unanimous support was signed by Governor Susana Martinez. The law allows for the possession, distribution and storage of an opiate overdose antidote (naloxone or Narcan®) by individuals and community organizations under a standing order and relieves individuals or registered overdose prevention and education programs from civil liability. 

The law will make it easier for community organizations, jails, treatment programs, and first responders to distribute naloxone. It also provides legal protection to laypeople encouraging them to administer naloxone in overdose situations where every second counts.

911 Good Samaritan Law (2007)
On April, 4th 2007, Gov. Bill Richardson signed a measure that shields people who seek medical assistance for a friend or family member who is experiencing a drug overdose. It was the first state law of its kind in the nation.

SB 200, the 911 Good Samaritan bill, addresses the overwhelming rates of drug-related overdoses in New Mexico by encouraging people to call 911 in the event of an overdose. The bill provides limited immunity from drug possession charges when a witness or victim of a drug-related overdose seeks emergency services for help.

Naloxone (Narcan®) (2001)
In 2001, the New Mexico legislature passed a bill that removes criminal and civil liability from people who administer naloxone, an opiate overdose reversal agent. That legislation has led to hundreds of lives saved. 

Additional Resources