State officials release results of wastewater testing on metro schools
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The state started testing wastewater at some metro high schools for illicit drugs as part of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s current public health order. They released the initial round of test results Wednesday.
The state just published a website where they will be posting all their test results.
According to the test results, the drug that showed up in the most schools is cocaine.
The state spent months testing for illicit drugs at 24 schools. They took samples every 15 minutes over the school day using an automatic sampling device.
“We’re not just testing wastewater generated by students. We’re testing wastewater for anybody using the bathrooms in that school. That’s students, parents, staff, and vendors,” said New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen.
The state tested specifically for these 11 opioids and metabolites – which is the substance a drug will turn into when it processes through the body.
There were traces of fentanyl in about a quarter of the schools tested.
“We have a lot of messages around fentanyl and a lot of the messaging has to do with of things along the lines of ‘One pill can kill,’ and that continues to be really important,” said Allen.
At least one opioid showed up in 15 of the 24 schools.
Allen says a positive for an opioid doesn’t always mean it was used illegally. A lot of them are prescribed.
The only illegal opioid on that list is heroin, and that didn’t show up in any school’s wastewater.
Allen says the real surprise comes when we take a look at the results for stimulants.
“The big eyeopener was the significant presence of cocaine. I don’t think, at least at policymaker level, public discussion level, media level is not nearly on the radar as much as fentanyl is and probably should be,” said Allen.
Cocaine was the most prevalent of any drug, showing up in 18 of the 24 high school.
Meth and amphetamine also showed up nearly everywhere. But Allen says ADHD medication could be to blame.
“Amphetamine is the ingredient in Adderall, but the test result is indistinguishable between methamphetamine and Adderall,” he said.
State leaders say the data is not just reflective of what’s happening in our schools but in our communities.
They say the results will help policymakers come up with plans for how to tackle issues specific to each community.
They plan to continue testing at every public high school in our state and posting the results to this website.