Editorial: Organize against opioid abuse - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Organize against opioid abuse

Young or old, rich or poor, opioid abuse is an unwelcome common denominator in U.S. society – especially here in New Mexico.

Abuse of opioids, which include illegal heroin and legal drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, is now considered a national epidemic. People who may start with prescribed painkillers often move to illegal but easier-to-get or cheaper alternatives, such as heroin, thanks to accessible criminal networks.

In 2014, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, about 47,000 people died of drug overdoses nationwide, the majority of which are attributed to opioids. New Mexico had 540 drug overdose deaths that year, and for much of the past decade the state has ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation for its drug overdose death rate.

A recent forum hosted by the Albuquerque Journal and KANW-FM and co-hosted by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Richard Larson, vice chancellor of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, featured a group of experts to discuss the problem.

Some of the themes that emerged: Funding and treatment options are sorely lacking in New Mexico, criminal action against abusers alone won’t turn the tide, and a comprehensive and coordinated effort is required.

Opioid abuse doesn’t just hurt the user. It hurts the community through increased crime and social problems. The recent focus on this deadly epidemic should endure. A statewide effort is indeed needed to devise a coordinated, achievable plan of action that targets both treatment and funding.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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