Legislation to Address Heroin Addiction in New Mexico Passes House

Press Release February 16, 2009
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Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798

House Memorial 9, which requests the New Mexico Department of Health to convene a taskforce to make medication-assisted treatment more widely available to people with opioid addictions around the state passed the House Floor today, 63-0.

“I stand in support of this. I think it’s very important that we do identify the need and the barriers to access this medication,” said Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell.

New Mexico’s prescription opioid and heroin-related drug overdose rates are significantly higher than the national average and expanding availability of medication assisted treatment is a critical step to reduce the drug overdose death rate in New Mexico.

“We do have a problem with drug abuse in our whole state,” said Rep. Candy Ezzell. R-Roswell. “Because we do have such a huge problem throughout the state with a drug addiction, I think this is very much needed. We can’t just keep people with drug addictions in our prisons and expect them to get better.”

Medication assisted treatment has been demonstrated in numerous scientific studies to be the most effective treatment for individuals addicted to heroin. The two most common medications used for treatment of heroin or opioid addictions are buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone. These medications “occupy” the receptors in the brain that are affected by heroin and other opiates to facilitate detoxification, treatment, and recovery from opioid addiction.

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, the sponsor of HM 9, said “The American Association of Physicians and other organizations endorse this approach to people who have heroin addictions. This taskforce will make this treatment more available.”

When properly dosed, the medications do not cause euphoria, intoxication, or sedation. Both methadone and buprenorphine work by suppressing withdrawal symptoms, relieving cravings for the drug, and blocking the effects of any opioids. People dependent on street opioids who receive methadone or buprenorphine treatment live longer, spend less time in jail and in the hospital, are less often infected with HIV, and commit fewer crimes.

Appropriate substance abuse treatment is proven to significantly reduce criminal activity during and after treatment. Every dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs such as crime, violence, and loss of productivity.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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