“I’m spending time on the issue because here in Colorado and across the country people…don’t realize the costs in terms of lives, health, and economics. The number of deaths that come from overdose is greater than the number of deaths that come from car accidents.”
~ US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, in a July 2015 roundtable meeting with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
All across America, heroin abuse – and the associated number of overdose fatalities – is on the rise, and Colorado is no exception. Although it was once thought of as primarily an urban drug that had waned in popularity, heroin is enjoying a major resurgence within virtually every community and demographic.
Statistics about Heroin Abuse in Colorado
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that the abuse of opiates in America an “epidemic”. Even a cursory look at Colorado statistics will tell you:
- In the past 20 years, the number of people entering drug treatment programs in Colorado because of heroin has approximately tripled – from 1643 to 4556.
- In some parts of the state, the number of people in treatment for heroin abuse increased by a factor of 16 during the same time frame.
- Since 2011, fatal heroin overdoses in Colorado have increased threefold.
- Since 2000, fatal heroin overdoses in Colorado have almost quadrupled.
- In the Denver area in 2014, heroin killed more people than any other illegal drug.
- Young adults are the hardest hit – since 2008, Colorado residents between the ages of 18 and 24 suffered a 27% increase in the rate of heroin abuse.
Why is there an Increase in Heroin Addiction in Colorado?
There are a few reasons why heroin in Colorado is much more readily available and popular than it was in years past, and they all have to do with economics – the drug supply and demand within the state.
- Prescription Opiates Painkiller Abuse –Until a few years ago, the abuse of prescription pain pills was skyrocketing, creating an urgent need for new protocols and regulations. Even today, 224,000 Coloradans misuse or abuse prescription medications each year.
Programs like Governor Hickenlooper’s “Take Meds Seriously” campaign have been successful, and deaths because of prescription opiates in Colorado are down, because multiple and fraudulent prescriptions are harder to obtain and unwanted prescriptions are more often disposed of properly.
However, Colorado residents who were dependent upon or addicted to opioid painkillers were now unable to feed their addiction. Pills became both scarcer and more expensive.
As a substitute, many individual switched to another opiate – heroin, which provides the same euphoric effect as prescription pain pills. Heroin in Colorado is much cheaper and easier to find than opioid painkillers, due in large part to the second reason.
- The Legalization of Marijuana – One of the unexpected “side effects” of marijuana legalization in Colorado has been damage to the illegal Mexican drug trade. With marijuana profits plummeting because of legal sales, drug cartels south of the border changed their focus.
Taking advantage of the increased demand for heroin, illegal drug growers in Mexico switched from cultivating cannabis plants to opium poppies, which are used in the manufacture of heroin.
As a result, the American market has been flooded with a huge supply of cheap, high-quality heroin that perfectly fulfills the needs of opioid addicts.
How much cheaper?
A high-dosage oxycodone pill can cost $80 or more, while the equivalent dose of heroin can cost less than half that. And, because it’s bought illegally, restrictions are easily circumvented.
What Does All of This Information about Heroin in Colorado Really Mean?
When you take an objective look at the drug environment in Colorado – the demand for opiate drugs and the easy availability of cheap heroin – and factor in the rapidly-rising overdose rates, the seriousness of the situation becomes clear.
One statistic to pay attention to is the number of people entering treatment for heroin, because that number will ALWAYS be less than the number of people actually USING the drug.
Dr. Rebecca Helfand, who analyzes data for the Colorado Department of Human Services, says, “It’s a scary shift. If we’re seeing this jump in heroin treatment admission, how many people aren’t being included in that? And is there a need to try to get more people into treatment?”
The answer to her question is, most definitely, YES.
If you or someone you care about has a problem with heroin or any other opioid, make the call today to get help from AspenRidge Recovery – the premier alcohol and drug and alcohol rehab program Colorado has available.
Employing evidence-based therapeutic strategies, AspenRidge provides a safe environment where people suffering from various substance abuse disorders and associated co-occurring mental disorders can receive effective treatment.