Exhibit documents high cost of illegal drug use

February 23, 2019 GMT

Copyright ? 2019 Albuquerque Journal

“Drugs don’t discriminate ? they’re an equal opportunity destroyer.”

Those words were spoken by Uttam Dhillon on Thursday at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Dhillon, acting administrator of Drug Enforcement Administration, was in Albuquerque to talk about “Drugs: Costs & Consequences,” the museum’s latest exhibition. The exhibit has its grand opening Saturday, alongside “Brain: The Inside Story.” The drug exhibit will run through September, and the brain exhibit runs through June.

The DEA-funded exhibit looks at the story of illegal drugs from their production to the profound impact they have on society. It teaches the science behind drug addiction and explores the costs and consequences to individuals, societies and the world.

The exhibit is broken into categories such as “The Cost of Drugs,” “Drugs and the Body,” “Drugs and the Environment” and “Breaking the Cycle.”


Visitors will be exposed to such sights as a drug house and paraphernalia, as well as the results of a DWI crash.

A wrecked vehicle is part of a segment on the cost of drug-impaired driving in the “Drugs: Costs & Consequences” exhibit in Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Dhillon said many agree that education is our greatest weapon in discouraging drug use and addiction.

He said the exhibit tells the incredible story of the 10,000 men and women of the DEA who protect the nation from illegal drugs.

“We are here in New Mexico because you’ve experienced the violence that comes with drug trafficking,” Dhillon said. “There were nearly 500 New Mexicans dying of drug overdoses in 2017.”

Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier, while speaking about the drug epidemic in New Mexico, said he thought TV shows like “Breaking Bad” give the city a bad image, and he pointed to the state’s No. 15 ranking in the nation for opioid overdose deaths.

But William Alden, chairman of the Board DEA Educational Foundation, praised “Breaking Bad” and co-creator Vince Gilligan for bringing to light the many dire consequences of drug abuse in the TV series.

“We believe that Vince portrayed the consequences of drug use, specifically methamphetamine use, accurately,” Alden said. “He always showed the consequences with Walter White. It created dysfunction in the family. We thought it was important that he did that. I’m hoping we will be able to drag him back to Albuquerque for this exhibit. He’s a great supporter of this community and city.”

According to Margie Marino, museum director, the DEA will cover the majority of the cost of the exhibit, though the museum will have to pay for shipping and a few startup costs.

To help offset the cost, a $120,000 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association grant was awarded to the museum for the exhibit, which the DEA applied for on the museum’s behalf.


Marino said the grant will pay $40,000 for subsidies for school buses so that schoolchildren can visit the exhibit.

Another $55,000 will pay for one full-time educator to work at the exhibit during the nine-month run.

The DEA-run program “DEA 360” picked Albuquerque as a pilot city in 2017.

The program is an approach to tackling the cycle of violence and addiction generated by the link between drug cartels, violent gangs, and the rising problem of prescription opioid and heroin abuse.

It also runs its online program “Drugs 360” through the Albuquerque Public Schools.

Marino expects to have more educational programing announced during the exhibit’s run.

“We didn’t get the DEA educator on board until recently,” she said. “The government shutdown placed this position on hold. But we’re getting up and running with the planning for educational services.”

If you go

WHAT: “Drugs: Costs & Consequences” and “Brain: The Inside Story”

WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; grand opening for both exhibits on Saturday

WHERE: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1701 Mountain NW

HOW MUCH: $8 adults, $7 ages 60 and over, $5 ages 3-12. Free admission for New Mexico residents with ID on the first Sunday of each month. New Mexico seniors ages 60 and older get in free every Wednesday.