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New tools launched in bid to fight heroin, opioid abuse

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Billboards, a new website and a speakers’ bureau were among the tools to fight heroin and prescription drug abuse announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez as part of the HOPE Initiative.

There were 540 drug overdose deaths in New Mexico in 2014 and 90 percent involved heroin or prescription painkillers.

“The number of overdose deaths is the tip of the iceberg,” Martinez said.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 825 non-medical users of opioid drugs or heroin for every overdose death, Martinez said.

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Richard Larson M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said that addiction to opioids is one of the “most insidious problems we experience in New Mexico and the United States.”

Federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have joined with UNM Health Sciences Center to develop education programs to help fight what Martinez and Larson called an epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse.

“Through this initiative, the medical and law enforcement communities are working together to bring hope to New Mexico by educating our communities about the dangers of prescription painkillers and heroin to prevent more New Mexicans from succumbing to this epidemic,” Martinez said.

The billboards are located at 15 sites around the city, and are designed to spur conversations between adults and their children about drug abuse, Martinez said.

The website provides links to education, prevention and other services for people seeking information on drug abuse.

Organizations and schools can also access the HOPE Initiative speakers’ bureau, which includes programs offered by the UNM School of Pharmacy and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

To view the website, go to HopeInitiativeNM.org.

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