Welcome to a pioneering initiative by the Governor’s Office and the New Mexico Environment Department to ensure the health and safety of our school communities. Our innovative wastewater testing program in public schools across the state serves as a proactive measure to detect and address drug use among the school population.

Dashboard Sections and Navigation

Section 1

About the Initiative

Section 2

How does it work?

Section 3

What is being analyzed?

Section 4

Data Summary

Section 5

What did we find?

About the Initiative

The Governor’s Office, the New Mexico Environment Department, the Department of Health, the Public Education Department, and the Department of Public Safety are working together to understand and address illicit drug use in schools. This dashboard is your window to understanding what we have learned and how this initiative is making a difference in our schools.

Benefits of the Initiative

  • Data-Driven Decisions: Provides information on drug consumption at schools that administrators and policymakers can use to make informed decisions.

  • Privacy-Conscious: Does not involve collecting any personally identifiable samples or data, thereby protected student, teacher, and staff privacy.

  • Community Engagement: Fosters a collaborative approach involving schools, parents, and local communities in addressing drug-related issues.

  • Health and Safety: Contributes to the overall health and safety of the school environment.

Our Commitment

The Governor’s Office, the New Mexico Environment Department, and the whole of state government are committed to the wellbeing of our students and communities. This initiative is a step towards creating safer, healthier school environments through innovative science and community partnership.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, resources are available. Call 988 for help.

How does Wastewater testing for drug detection work?

How wastewater testing is used to detect drug use

Wastewater (i.e., sewage) includes water used throughout the school (e.g., sinks, toilets, dishwashers) that contains human excrement. People consuming drugs will excrete either the drug itself or a metabolite of the drug (i.e., a different form of the drug after it breaks down in the body), which is then captured in the wastewater. Scientists have developed testing technologies that can detect both illicit and licit drugs, as well as their metabolites, in wastewater. The results offer insight into how much and what types of drugs have been consumed for a given population. The results do not, however, indicate whether the drug consumption was illicit or used in accordance with a prescription.

    How samples are collected

    The New Mexico Environment Department is collecting wastewater from public high schools throughout New Mexico. At each school, wastewater is collected every 15 minutes using an automatic sampling device over the course of one school day. The wastewater is then combined into a single sample for laboratory analysis. Depending on the school, samples are collected in either manholes or cleanouts.

      What are samples being analyzed for?

      The New Mexico Environment Department is using a commercial laboratory to analyze for the presence of 15 different opioids, stimulants, or metabolites of opioids and stimulants. This includes illicit drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine, as well as prescription drugs that may be abused, such as oxycodone, or illegally manufactured, such as fentanyl.  

      Because the human body breaks down drugs after they are consumed (metabolizes), it is important to also test for the chemical compounds that these drugs break down into (metabolites). The human body metabolizes some of the drugs included in this effort very quickly, making them difficult to detect in wastewater unless they are flushed directly or consumed within a short period of time. Measuring both drugs and their metabolites provides additional evidence as to whether a drug has been consumed. For this effort, all samples are analyzed for at least one metabolite of the drugs being tested. 

      Opioids (and metabolites):

      • Heroin
      • 6-Acetylmorphine (a metabolite that is only created when someone uses heroin)
      • Fentanyl
      • Norfentanyl (a metabolite that is only created when someone uses fentanyl)
      • Oxycodone
      • Oxymorphone 
      • Hydrocodone
      • Hydromorphone
      • Codeine
      • Morphine
      • Methadone 

      Stimulants (and metabolites):

      • Methamphetamine
      • Amphetamine
      • Cocaine
      • Benzoylecgonine (a metabolite that is only created when someone uses cocaine)

        Important limitations of these data

        The results above provide information on the drugs and metabolites detected in the wastewater on the day that a given school was sampled. The results do not represent drug use among the school population over the course of a week, month, or year. Because of this, results should be compared across schools with caution. Additionally, the wastewater samples collected for this effort capture everyone who used the restrooms on the day that the wastewater sample was collected. This includes the student population, as well faculty, staff, and visitors. Drugs detected in the wastewater cannot be attributed to a specific population within the school campus.

        Some of the metabolites tested through this effort are only created when someone uses one of the target drugs of this effort. Specifically, detection of norfentanyl indicates fentanyl use in the school population, detection of benzoylecgonine indicates cocaine use, and detection of 6-Acetylmorphine indicates heroin use. The other metabolites may represent a target drug but may also indicate use of a different prescription or illicit drug. For example, the presence of amphetamine may indicate methamphetamine use. However, amphetamine is also included in various prescription drugs. Results for such metabolites should be interpreted with caution.

        Wastewater testing for opioids and other drugs is a developing field, and as such, there are several knowledge gaps that limit data interpretation. Specifically, the results do not tell us how many people used the drug, the amount of drug that was consumed, or if the use was illicit.

        When will more data become available?

        Samples are being collected at every public high school in the state and sent to the laboratory on a weekly basis. The New Mexico Environment Department will post new results as they are received from the laboratory, typically within three or four weeks of when the wastewater samples are collected.

          Who do I contact if I have more questions about the sampling process or results?

          Contact the NMED Office of Strategic Initiatives at strategic.initiatives@env.nm.gov with any questions you may have.

            What did we find?

            School-level wastewater data for all results received to date is presented below.  

            Heroin and its Metabolite

            Fentanyl and its Metabolite

            Cocaine and its Metabolite

            Opioid & Stimulant Detection in Public Schools

            • Map Color Key:
            • School Tested
            • School Not Tested Yet

            Opioid Detection in Public Schools

            • Grid Color Key:
            • Detected

            Stimulant Detection in Public Schools

            • Grid Color Key:
            • Detected