Colorado ranks sixteenth in the nation with regards to the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs. Just like the rest of the United States, the State of Colorado has a significant—and growing—problem with prescription drug abuse.
In fact, according to the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy, over 255,000 Colorado residents over the age of 12 misuse prescription medications every year. That is more than 1 out of every 16 people.
Even more tragically, on average, at least one Coloradan dies every day due to a fatal prescription drug overdose, per statistics released by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
Since 2000, 10,544 Colorado residents have died via overdose. To put that number in perspective, that is roughly the entire population of Castle Pines in Douglas County or Glenwood Springs in Garfield County- or Alamosa in Alamosa County.
Try to imagine that for a moment — an entire city's worth of lives lost, all because of preventable fatal drug overdoses. To get a better understanding of the problem, let's take a closer look at some of Colorado's prescription drug abuse statistics.
Prescription drugs are medications that you are given by your doctor or dentist. In terms of medications with a high abuse potential, there are three main types. They include opioid painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin, fentanyl), benzodiazepine tranquilizers (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Restoril), and ADHD stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.
In 2016, Colorado overdose deaths involving all opiates - including both prescription opioids and heroin -were lower than they had been in 6 years - dropping from 472 deaths in 2015 to 442 deaths last year. While that may seem to be just a modest 6% decrease, keep two things in mind.
First, any downturn in opioid-related deaths is a major accomplishment. In 2000, there were only about 60 recorded fatal opioid overdoses in Colorado, and the number of deaths has climbed sharply ever since.
Second, the biggest reduction in opioid deaths was realized with prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. In 2015, those kinds of medications killed 259 Coloradans, but that significantly decreased in 2016, to 188.
That is an encouraging 27% year-over-year decrease. Once upon a time - as recently as 2010-2011 - Colorado ranked a lofty second in the country for the misuse of prescription opioid painkillers. Now, the state ranks somewhere closer to the middle. That is promising progress.
But as the success of the efforts aimed at curbing prescription opioid abuse is realized, a new, unforeseen, and potentially even more dangerous consequence has arisen - heroin abuse and overdose deaths are skyrocketing in the state of Colorado.
Heroin-related deaths were highest among the 25 to 34-year-old demographic. Within that age group, heroin kills more Coloradans than prescription opioids. However, take note that most heroin addicts only started using the drug because they were unable to access prescription opioids.
First-responder use of the anti-opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone increased 240 percent. The number of Colorado residents in treatment for heroin addiction increased 128 percent.
7 out of 10 people in drug rehab in Colorado for heroin abuse report that they first abused opioid painkillers, but then switched to heroin because it was cheaper and easier to obtain.
The increased demand for heroin in Colorado has led to a massive increase in the available supply, most of it flowing in from Mexico, and that has made prices drop. In 2013, a gram of pure heroin in Denver would cost an addict an average of $308, but by 2015, the price had fallen to $123.
From 2013 through the first quarter 2017, more than 36 million prescriptions were written for Colorado residents. Approximately 56% of those were for opioids. That equates to over 20 million opioid prescriptions dispensed in Colorado in a little more than 4 years.
Based on Colorado's population, that means there were enough painkiller prescriptions written during that span to give 3 out of 4 state residents their own personal bottle of opioids.2014-2017, nearly 60% of opioid patients were female.
Across all age groups, Colorado women have higher rates of hospitalization due to prescription opioid poisoning. The highest rate is among women age 65 and older.
This last statistic highlights the fact that Colorado women face greater risks from opioid drugs than men, because while women are hospitalized for opioid poisoning at higher rates, it is men who have greater rates of overdose from any drug.
Here's the scariest fact - a 12-year study reports that nationally, 91% of patients who suffer a nonfatal opioid overdose continue to be prescribed opioids. 70% of those still receive painkillers from the same doctor they were using before their overdose. Not surprisingly, patients who continue to take opioids after their overdose are twice as likely to overdo again within 2 years.
But when you are talking about prescription drug abuse, you might be surprised to learn where addicts actually get their drugs. According to the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, among people who abuse prescription medications:
One popular misconception is the mistaken idea that the misuse of medications isn't really drug abuse - that prescriptions are somehow safer than illicit street drugs. On the contrary, almost 60% of fatal drug overdoses involve prescription medications.
Fortunately, the state of Colorado has numerous types of rehab in place. There are many types of treatment centers such as long term addiction treatment facilities, short term drug abuse treatment, outpatient detoxification programs, outpatient substance abuse treatment services, inpatient drug abuse treatment and others.
There is a vast range of drug and alcohol rehab facilities available. They include individual psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, couple/family therapy, trauma therapy, trauma-related counseling, cognitive/behavior therapy and others, to name a few. If you need rehab in Colorado, place a call to any of the available rehab centers.
If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is imperative that you look for professional help as soon as you possibly can. However, you might not know where to start or the options that are open to you. Similarly, you may have little to no idea about the differences between the different treatment facilities and the programs they have in store for their patients.
Do you need help finding the right drug or alcohol rehab facility in your area?
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