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NM seeks new tools to intervene in opioid addiction

SANTA FE – New Mexico is considering new funding for research into treating addiction with injectable opioids to help address long-term dependency on heroin and other opioids.

A bill from Democratic state Rep. Miguel Garcia would provide $150,000 to the University of New Mexico for a demonstration project focused on injectable opioids including pharmaceutical grade heroin or the drug hydromorphone that is routinely prescribed for pain.

Opioid and heroin use has plagued some New Mexico communities for generations. The state has pioneered a series of policies aimed at combating opioid addiction, including becoming the first state to require law enforcement agencies to provide officers with overdose antidote kits. The state has a prescription monitoring database to prevent overlapping drug sales and has expanded access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses.

State health officials and researchers continue to search for new strategies to help heroin and other opioid users who haven’t responded to treatments with drugs, including buprenorphine that blocks cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and methadone, that can block the euphoric effects of various opioids.

University of New Mexico professor of internal medicine Kimberley Page says a new state-funded demonstration study would likely focus on administering hydromorphone and not pharmaceutical grade heroin to avoid regulatory and other hurdles.

She said the goal is not necessarily to end a patient’s dependency on opioids but to provide stability that allows patients to receive a variety of behavior health services and avoid the chaos of homelessness or collisions with the criminal justice system.

Overall overdose deaths in New Mexico increased by 9% to 537 in 2018, an increase largely because of methamphetamine use.