“I hate Colorado having to be the experiment… We should not try to get people to do more of what is not a healthy thing.”
~ Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, speaking against legal marijuana in the state
State-wide, Colorado has a serious problem with drug abuse and alcoholism that the legalization of recreational marijuana did little to ameliorate. In 2014, the rate of drug-related deaths in Colorado increased in every county except one. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Colorado has the unfortunate distinction of ranking #1 in the U.S. for the consumption of alcohol, marijuana, prescription opioid pain medications, and cocaine.
Within the past few years:
- The state has moved from #7 to #2 in the country for monthly marijuana use.
- The death rate from prescription painkillers has quadrupled.
- Heroin deaths have tripled.
- Meth seizures and possession arrests are at their highest levels ever.
Let’s take a look at some “problem areas” for substance abuse in Colorado:
Denver, Colorado, Substance Abuse Statistics
As the capital goes, so goes the rest of the State of Colorado. The Denver metro area has a population of almost three million and includes 10 Colorado counties—Denver, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Adams, Douglas, Broomfield, Elbert, Park, Clear Creek, and Gilpin.
- The rate of past-month alcohol consumption in the Denver metro—50.6%--is considerably higher than the U.S. rate of 43%. Rates of binge-drinking are slightly higher—25.9% vs. 23%.
- This is also true for past-month marijuana use—17.6% vs. 10.3%. Past-year usage rates are 26.1% vs. 17.6%
- Past-year cocaine usage is nearly double that of the U.S.—4.4% vs. 2.3%.
- Non-medical use of prescription opioids is down in recent years, but still higher than the U.S. average – 8.3% vs. 6.6%.
- Every year in the Denver area, 21% of residents age 12 or older will use an illicit drug.
- This rate is much higher than the national rate of 14.7%.
- This represents roughly 588,000
- Every year, approximately 2% of the area’s population will check into drug rehab. This makes the admittance rates considerably higher than other areas of the country.
- 2014 treatment admission rates in the Denver metro were at their highest since at least 2007 for both methamphetamines and heroin.
- The methamphetamine treatment admission rate increased by over 29% from 2013.
- The heroin treatment admission rate increased 20% from 2013, and over 215% since 2007.
- Between 2006 and 2014, treatment admissions for prescription opioids nearly doubled.
- Arrests in Denver for marijuana use at a public school increased 6% between 2013 and 2014.
- Heroin killed more people in Denver in 2014 than any other illegal drug.
- Since 2010, arrests for the possession of methamphetamines in Denver and Aurora have risen by more than 140%.
- Emergency room visits related to alcohol rose by over 14% from 2011 to 2013.
- During that same time frame, ER visits related to marijuana rose by over 67%.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, Substance Abuse Statistics
Colorado Springs is the second-most populous city in the state, and the metro area has a population of almost 700,000, which includes both El Paso and Teller Counties.
- Every year, a little over 10,000 people in the area will check into drug rehab.
- In 2014, there were 416 arrests for methamphetamine possession in Colorado Springs. That is double the number from 2010.
- The Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area has about 12% of the state’s population, but nearly 15% of its fatal heroin overdoses.
- Over 40% of automobile deaths in El Paso County are alcohol-related.
- In El Paso County, approximately 13% of residents engaged in binge-drinking within the past 30 days – including high school students. This number is 16% in Teller County.
- In 2014, EL Paso County had as many marijuana-related traffic arrests as Denver.
Pueblo, Colorado, Substance Abuse Statistics
“They don’t realize that drugs like meth and heroin are so highly addictive that these people are getting hooked on them immediately, sometimes after just one use. And you can overdose.”
~ Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor
The Pueblo metro has a population of over 160,000, but in recent years, the city has started to feel a much larger gang presence. As a result, drug-related violence is on the rise.
- According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Health Institute, Pueblo and Denver Counties have drug-related death rates that are among the worst in the country.
- Just 6% of the state’s population lives in Southeast Colorado, but the region accounted for over 18% of heroin admissions in 2014.
- That is a year-over-year increase of 8% from 2013.
- At 8.62%, the region has a lower proportion of the state’s treatment options.
- More than 1 out of every 4 high school students in Pueblo County have engaged in binge-drinking within the past 30 days.
- Approximately 1 in 3 Pueblo County high school students uses marijuana every month. That is much higher than Colorado’s 19.7%.
- The percentage of automobile fatalities that are alcohol-related in Pueblo County is much greater than Colorado as a whole—44% vs 34%.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions for Two Counties in Colorado
Two Colorado counties—Pitkin and Summit—are ranked #2 and #3 in the U.S. for any type of alcohol consumption—76% and 78%.
What Do All of these Statistics Tell Us?
While researching these numbers, it became apparent how much of a cause for concern the overall rates of drug use, abuse, addiction and overdoses are in Colorado are, compared to the rest of the United States. The problem is completely across the board, involving virtually every intoxicating substance and touching every segment of the population—every age group, every racial demographic, and each gender.
While that is true for the state as a whole, in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo, along with their surrounding metropolitan areas, the substance abuse problem is moving beyond “concerning” and becoming “dangerous”.
Previous studies have shown that only 11% of people who meet the criteria for a substance abuse disorder are actually receiving treatment at any given time. Doing the math, that means that there are potentially tens of thousands of Colorado who may require help but aren’t getting it. This only serves to highlight the pressing need for effective drug and alcohol in addiction treatment in the state.
AspenRidge Recovery can help meet that need. Located conveniently in Lakewood, AspenRidge is the most-trusted name in addiction recovery in Colorado and provides safe Sober Living homes to individuals recovering from substance abuse.
By combining the traditions and philosophies of the Twelve Steps with the latest accepted Evidence-Based Treatment interventions, AspenRidge can address the disease of addiction on multiple levels—physical, mental, emotional, nutritional, and spiritual. This multi-faceted approach helps reduce the impact that this illness has on the individual, their family, and the entire community.