Recognition and response to opioid overdose deaths-New Mexico, 2012. Academic Article uri icon


  • Drug overdose deaths are epidemic in the U.S. Prescription opioid pain relievers (OPR) and heroin account for the majority of drug overdoses. Preventing death after an opioid overdose by naloxone administration requires the rapid identification of the overdose by witnesses. This study used a state medical examiner database to characterize fatal overdoses, evaluate witness-reported signs of overdose, and identify opportunities for intervention.We reviewed all unintentional drug overdose deaths that occurred in New Mexico during 2012. Data were abstracted from medical examiner records at the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator. We compared mutually exclusive groups of OPR and heroin-related deaths.Of the 489 overdose deaths reviewed, 49.3% involved OPR, 21.7% involved heroin, 4.7% involved a mixture of OPR and heroin, and 24.3% involved only non-opioid substances. The majority of OPR-related deaths occurred in non-Hispanic whites (57.3%), men (58.5%), persons aged 40-59 years (55.2%), and those with chronic medical conditions (89.2%). Most overdose deaths occurred in the home (68.7%) and in the presence of bystanders (67.7%). OPR and heroin deaths did not differ with respect to paramedic dispatch and CPR delivery, however, heroin overdoses received naloxone twice as often (20.8% heroin vs. 10.0% OPR; p<0.01).OPR overdose deaths differed by age, health status, and the presence of bystanders, yet received naloxone less often when compared to heroin overdose deaths. These findings suggest that naloxone education and distribution should be targeted in future prevention efforts.Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • October 2016