High in the Mile-High City: Addiction Statistics in Denver - AspenRidge

According to the most recent report released by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, there is an increase in usage of virtually every major substance of abuse in the Denver, Colorado, Metropolitan Area. Their findings were based upon:

  • The National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
  • Availability
  • Treatment admissions data
  • Hospital discharges

The three most disconcerting drug trends in Denver involve heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription opioid pain medications.

Heroin Statistics in Denver

“To see anyone along the trail or anywhere else in the city sitting there shooting up or doing what they were doing along the (16th Street) mall is very disturbing and no resident of Denver should experience that…Certainly we must move in with a deep understanding and a sense of firm compassion because this isn’t an illness, it’s a disease.”

~Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, responding to reports of people using heroin in broad daylight along Cherry Creek bike trail

The cyclic popularity of heroin has surged upward within the past few years in Denver and across the nation. There are two main reasons why this is the case.

FIRST, heroin is much cheaper than black market prescription opioids. One opioid painkiller pill can cost as much as $80, but a single dose of heroin can be bought on the street for as little as $10.

SECOND, now that marijuana is legal in Colorado AND there are so many restrictions on the prescribing of opioid painkillers, heroin is much easier to find. It’s particularly easy to find in this region of the U.S., because Mexican drug cartels have largely been switching to growing opium poppies, rather than marijuana.

  • In 2007, about one-quarter of all Coloradans 18-24 years of age in substance abuse treatment were there because of heroin, but by 2014, that figure had risen to 45%.
  • In 2004, heroin was present in just 4% of alcohol or drug-related deaths in the Denver Metro. By 2012, heroin was found in 9% of local AOD deaths.
  • The reportable heroin death rate in Denver is six times what it was in 2004 – 6.5 per 100,000 residents versus 1.1.
  • In 2014, there were more fatal overdoses in Denver due to heroin than any other illegal drug.

Methamphetamine Statistics in Denver

The I-25 corridor is a massive route for drugs being brought up from the border. This is a typical example of an investigation where your sources are based in Mexico – or Arizona and New Mexico – and they’re bringing drugs up to Colorado.”

~Resident Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Tim Scott, talking about a drug bust in June 2016 where 21 pounds of methamphetamines were seized

As is the case with heroin, the loss of revenue from increasingly-legal marijuana in the United States has caused Mexican drug cartels to increase their production of cheap, but extremely pure methamphetamines.

  • In 2014, 15,000 pounds of methamphetamines were seized by federal agents at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is an all-time high.
  • Arrests for meth possession in Denver have skyrocketed over 140% within the past six years.
  • Meth is the second-most common drug listed on forensic laboratory reports in Denver County.
  • The DEA’s Denver Field Division Office ranks methamphetamines as its “top drug threat”, reporting that it is “readily available” with purity levels of over 90%.

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics in Denver

“We have a very serious problem here in Colorado, and the cost to our citizens is very high, both in terms of lives and dollars. And we must address it with the same urgency as we have other epidemics like drunk driving.”

~Robert Valuck, Director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus, speaking to lawmakers about prescription drug abuse in Colorado in 2014

Because almost a quarter of a million Colorado residents misuse prescription medications such as opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines every year, Governor John Hickenlooper launched “Take Meds Seriously” to address the issue.

  • From 2011 to 2013, 86% of overdose-related emergency room visits in Colorado were due to prescription painkillers.
  • The mortality rate for prescription opioids more than doubled in Denver between 2003 and 2012 – 4 per 100,000 residents to 11.3.
  • Prescription painkillers were the most commonly-listed drugs in AOD death reports in the Denver Metro area in 2012– 3% of reportable deaths.
  • Both oxycodone and hydrocodone were in the “Top 10” of items seized by law enforcement, according to announce reports by Denver area forensic laboratories.
  • Fentanyl – a powerful prescription painkiller up to 100 times more potent than morphine – is the drug most often stolen from Colorado hospitals.
  • Twice a month, an employee at a Colorado hospital is fired for suspected drug diversion.

On Thursday, July 14, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper, along with forty-five other State Governors, signed the Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction, redoubling efforts throughout the nation to fight the opioid epidemic and change the country’s understanding of addiction.

Colorado has made important strides to combat the prescription drug misuse and abuse that affects a significant percentage of Coloradans across the state. We have more to do. I look forward to continuing this work with my fellow governors on a national level,” said Governor Hickenlooper.

It is entirely possible that you or someone you know and care about is struggling with one of these substance abuse issues right this very moment. If that is the case, there is hope and help available.

AspenRidge Recovery is the #1 addiction treatment center in Colorado, helping you develop the tools you need to live a healthier life of restored sobriety and regained serenity.

AspenRidge utilizes an effective treatment strategy that combines the latest evidence-based treatment protocols with time honored 12-Step principles, thereby maximizing your chances of a successful and during sober journey. If you need help, make the life-saving call to AspenRidge Recovery today.

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