New Mexico launches wastewater drug testing for high schools; finds coke, fentanyl

(The Center Square) – New Mexico released its first set of wastewater drug test results at public high schools on the Wastewater Drug Monitoring Dashboard this week. According to The Wall Street Journal, New Mexico appears to be the first state to take the step that found cocaine in nearly 90% of schools.

The Department of Health ordered wastewater testing for drugs to be conducted at public high schools in the state. It is part of a public health order aimed at addressing substance misuse, according to the department.

The Department of Health issued the public health order in response to Governor Michele Lujan Grisham declaring a substance misuse public health emergency in September.

“Knowledge is power, and having more data about the presence of illicit substances in schools informs our collaborative efforts at the school, community, and government levels,” the governor said.

The state thinks the data will help every level of government deal with substance misuse moving forward.

The state initially sampled 24 schools. At these schools, 88% tested positive for cocaine or its metabolite, and 29% tested positive for fentanyl or its metabolite. Heroin was not found in any of them. However, 92% of schools tested positive for methamphetamine or its metabolite.

The data cannot tell the difference between legal drugs, like ADHD medications, and illegal drugs, like crystal meth.

Additionally, the results do not show how many people used drugs, the quantity consumed, where they were consumed, or who consumed them; students, faculty, or visitors may have consumed the drugs.

“The Wastewater Testing Dashboard sheds light on a complex challenge facing our schools. Of particular note was the pervasive presence of cocaine in the sampling. That’s one area where we can improve communications with students right now, as parents, school leaders, and public health experts,” Health Secretary Patrick Allen said. “On the other hand, it’s clear that prevention efforts work: heroin was not detected in any of the schools so far. These results emphasize the importance of proactive measures, open communication with parents, and a united effort to safeguard our students.”

The Department encourages parents to talk to their children about drugs, including illegal drugs and prescription drug abuse.

“Prevention is the first line of defense against substance misuse,” a release said. “Families are at the heart of substance misuse and can be active participants in prevention and support efforts.”

Thus far, the Department has sampled 89 schools in New Mexico. The state plans to update its dashboard with results from more schools as they become available.

You can view the state’s dashboard here. The cost of the testing was not immediately available.

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