Some smaller communities are facing epic battles with drugs, including tiny Española, N.M., reports Forbes magazine. Española is a small rural city north of Santa Fe. Its population of 10,000 includes a large Hispanic community, relies largely on Los Alamos National Lab for employment, and struggles with a high poverty rate. This is the U.S. city that consistently ranks among the top in the nation in drug overdoses. It is tough to find another U.S. city that records 42.5 drug-related deaths per 100,000, compared with a national average of 7.3.
Heroin is the drug of choice in Española. Health groups are at a loss to explain the high rate of overdoses despite a longstanding public health effort. In 2001, New Mexico started distributing Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of overdose; it bolstered the program in 2007 by giving out Narcan nasal spray instead of needles. The state granted immunity from prosecution for people in possession of illegal drugs if they call 911 to seek help for an overdose or take someone to a hospital. Drug use overall has remained steady for several years, with 8 percent of the population reporting using drugs, says the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. Certain areas continue to see huge drug problems for reasons that sometimes confound those trying to dam the tide. “There are different drug-use rates among the population,” says John Carnevale, an ex-official of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.