Everyone knows that, in 2013, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational pot. But, did you know that the state has the 12th highest consumption rate of illegal drugs? These Colorado drug use statistics should be interesting to you.
We hear a lot about legalized marijuana in Colorado. After all, the state gained national attention in 2013 when it became the first state to legalize recreational use. Since then, the rest of the country has looked to the Centennial State to understand things like how legalized pot affects a state’s economy and how it impacts public health.
But, while we hear about pot a lot, we don’t hear as much about other drugs in Colorado. And, unfortunately, it’s something we should probably talk a lot more about.
As you’re probably aware, the United States is currently suffering through the largest and longest addiction epidemic the country has ever seen. And unfortunately, Colorado is not immune to it.
So, it’s important that pay mind to the way that ALL drugs are affecting the state, not just marijuana.
We’ve collected a handful of Colorado drug statistics that will probably be of interest to you. Check them out below.
Here are 21 surprising facts that will shine some light on addiction in Colorado.
Treatment Admissions Have Tripled for Certain Drugs
Studies found that between 2014-2012, treatment admission have tripled. The drugs that attributed to the need for addiction treatment include:
Colorado Drug Overdoses are Up in Almost Every County and Ahead of the National Average
The state of Colorado has a highest rate of deaths by overdose than any other state in the U.S. This number is increasing throughout all of Colorado, including the rural areas. Some counties, like Arapahoe, have seen overdose deaths double within the past fifteen years. Prescription painkillers like Percocet or OxyContin are primary drugs causing this epidemic.
Colorado is the Only State with Heavy Consumption of Four Major Intoxicants
Federal government data shows Colorado as the only state that has problems with the four major intoxicants. These include:
- Opioids (prescription painkillers and heroin.)
Nearly one-third of residents in certain counties are drinking what is considered to be unsafe levels.
Meth is BASICALLY Legal in Colorado
Methamphetamine is a huge problem in the Rocky Mountains. In fact, some argue that it’s a bigger issue than opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
Crystal meth was involved in nearly 300 overdose deaths last year. Some of the victims’ autopsies showed that they had taken meth along with an opioid. Others had simply used ice by itself.
But, while it may not have killed as many folks as heroin and prescription opioids, crystal meth costs property owners a lot of money. After all, it’s usually created in homemade “labs” that create nasty smoke. This smoke often stains the exteriors of the building, creating an eyesore that’s hard to fix, even after authorities have seized it.
Perhaps the scariest thing about meth in Colorado is that this is one of the states where it’s still (kind of) legal.
What? Meth is Legalized in Colorado?
Well…no. Not exactly. Crystal meth is still illegal in all 50 states, despite fringe efforts to legalize it.
However, a drug called “Desoxyn” is currently legal in Colorado. Desoxyn has effects that are scarily similar to crystal meth. And doctors hand it out like candy.
One of the biggest reasons why Desoxyn affects the body in a similar manner to meth is that it has a similar chemical makeup. In fact, the drug’s medical name is “Methamphetamine Hydrochloride“.
Like Tina, this legalized form of meth is highly addictive. In fact, it carries such a high risk of abuse that the Drug Enforcement Administration actually considers it a form of methamphetamine.
So, it’s unlikely that crank will be legal anytime soon. But, in the meantime, Colorado meth users will continue to use Desoxyn when ice isn’t available.
Are you a crystal meth user? Has your habit spun out of control? We want to help. Take our meth addiction quiz to figure out whether or not you need rehab.
Unfortunately, Addicts Aren’t Getting the Treatment They Need
One of the saddest Colorado drug use statistics concerns addiction treatment. Although overdose deaths are on the rise, fewer and fewer addicts are getting proper treatment.
According to The Colorado Health Institute, roughly 3% of Colorado residents admit to having a drug addiction. This includes addicts who use alcohol and marijuana as well as illegal substances like meth, cocaine, heroin, and others. It also includes people who abuse prescription drugs.
Of course, this statistic must be taken with a grain of salt. Many addicts refuse to answer honestly because they feel ashamed or guilty. Others refuse to answer honestly because they’re afraid of the legal repercussions.
Only 16% of Colorado drug addicts get the professional treatment they need.
But, either way, that’s a lot of people who are suffering. And, as The Colorado Health Institute points out, not enough of them receive professional treatment.
In their National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Institute shows that less than 16% of all addicts seek treatment. This is very scary. That means that there are tens of thousands of addicts out there, 85% of the addict population, who are suffering in isolation.
The Institute credits this problem to an insufficient workforce. In other words, they believe that there aren’t enough addiction professionals to treat all of the addicts who need help.
While this may be the case, it’s also important that addicts and their families reach out to the support networks. There are plenty of people out there who are eager to help.
Drug Addiction Costs the State A LOT of Money
To the state’s credit, Colorado spends a lot of money on preventing and treating drug addiction. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Colorado spends nearly 15% of the state’s budget on addiction treatment and prevention programs.
Out of this budget, 3 cents of every dollar goes toward prevention. 97 cents out of every dollar goes toward treatment resources like hospital bills and rehabilitation.
Additionally, special bills like the Long Appropriations Act require an extra $4 million are spent on addiction prevention. So, when it’s all said and done, the state ends up spending a fair chunk of change on addiction.
One of the stipulations of the legalization Act is the “weed tax”. This caveat ensures that a fair portion of the taxes paid for marijuana sales are spent on addiction programs. These tax dollars help to fund anti-drug education programs as well as treatment centers and other addiction resources.
Currently, the first $40 million in taxes paid for marijuana sales is allocated toward addiction prevention programs. That might change in the future. But for the time being, that’s what the weed industry contributes.
Of course, adequate prevention programs cost a lot more than that. So, taxpayers are left to foot the rest of the bill.
Age Group of Heroin Users in Colorado Seeking Treatment
The largest percentage of heroin users in Colorado that are admitting themselves into treatment centers are aged 18-24. The age group that follows as the second largest percentage is 25-34.
Pregnant Women in Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs
About 7 % of women in Colorado that have admitted themselves into drug and alcohol treatment are pregnant. Nationwide, the average is just 1%. The number of women needing treatment for addiction at any given time is believed to be up to 5,000. The addiction types include prescription pain killers, alcohol, nicotine, and heroin.
Prescription Opioid Overdose Decreased while Illegal Street Drug Overdoses Increased
Some reports are stating that prescription opioid use in Colorado dropped to the lowest level it’s been in the past six years. On the other hand, Colorado’s Health Department has found in preliminary studies that heroin and cocaine overdoses have increased.
Opioid deaths from prescription pain killers and opiates like heroin fell by around 6%. The biggest reduction of deaths was related to oxycodone and hydrocodone. It’s believed that the prescription drug crackdown forced opiate users to turn to heroin. Deaths due to cocaine overdose rose by nearly half in the same year.
Legal Marijuana Hasn’t Been Entirely Good for Colorado
Ever since Colorado passed Amendment 64 in 2012, journalists have written eagerly about its impact on the economy. Of course, it has improved the financial lives of many residents.
In 2016, for example, Colorado took in nearly $200 million in tax dollars from marijuana sales. In total, marijuana distributors made nearly $1.5 billion from selling pot. Overall, legalization has helped to create jobs and increase state revenue.
It’s helped to decrease the jail population, too. With fewer drug offenders in jail, Colorado residents spend far less on prison costs. And, many non-violent offenders have been given the chance to get back to work.
On average, one Colorado resident dies in a marijuana-related car accident every two days.
But, this doesn’t mean that legalized pot has been the best thing for Colorado. In fact, it’s had many negative consequences for the state.
For example, marijuana-related car accidents have spiked over the past five years. Between 2013 and 2018, fatal car crashes involving pot increased by more than 150%. On average, one Colorado resident dies in a drugged-driving accident every two days.
It’s also increased the number of black market pot seizures, as well. Currently, dealers must possess a retail marijuana license in order to sell. But, many dealers abstain from getting their license to that they can avoid taxes.
As a result, the Rocky Mountain HIDTA Task Force has seized more than 7 tons (almost 45,000 plants!) of illegal pot. The United States Postal Service turns over 387% more illegal packages than they did 5 years ago.
So, even if legalization has had some positive effects, it’s clear that not all of its effects are good.
Treatment for Meth Prevalence in Colorado
Meth is a big problem in the northeast and south-central regions of the state. A high percentage of residents are seeking treatment for methamphetamines. Clinics don’t have the necessary space or outpatient treatment resources to help effectively. Youth use of meth has dropped by 40% from 2005-2015 but there is a growing number of adults who are using it.
Illicit Drug Usage in Colorado Higher than the National Rate
Annually, over 20% of Colorado residents will use illicit drugs. This is higher than anywhere else and equates to over half a million people abusing drugs. In Denver, a mere 2% of those people check into a treatment program like drug rehabilitation. As so many residents abuse substances in Colorado with so few getting help, there is naturally a higher rate of addiction.
Treatment Admission Statistics Rising in Colorado
Colorado has seen an increase in treatment admission for many drugs. The meth admission rate has increased by nearly 30% in a few years. Heroin admissions have risen by over 200% since 2007.
Colorado Ranks #12 in the US When it Comes to Drug Use
One recent study looked at drug use in each state to figure out which states are the biggest drug users. In the words of the article’s authors, the goal of their research was to find out “where drug abuse is most pronounced and which areas are most at risk in the current political climate.”
The results are somewhat astounding (and kind of terrifying. According to the publication, Colorado currently ranks as the 12th-highest “problem state” when it comes to drug use. It is listed just above Massachusetts and just behind Wyoming.
The District of Columbia and Missouri are ranked #1 and #2, respectively (in case you were curious).
Nearly 224,000 Colorado residents abuse prescription medications like fentanyl, oxycodone, and U-47700.
The list was created by analyzing several different aspects of each state including drug addiction rates, addiction prevention efforts, and public drug rehab resources.
To be fair, Colorado ranked in the top 50% for both law enforcement prevention efforts and state-funded addiction resources. But, it was the state’s high drug use rates that earned it a spot in the top 25th percentile.
However, it’s important to note that the survey didn’t include responsible drug use. It didn’t account for prescription drug use, either. It only accounted for illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse.
So, it’s not surprising that Colorado ended up so high on the list. According to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, almost 224,000 Colorado residents misuse or abuse prescription drugs every year.
Colorado Drug Overdoses are FAR HIGHER Than the National Average
In a recent article for the Denver Post, writer John Ingold revealed that more residents died of a drug overdose in 2017 than any year in history. According to Ingold, the total overdose count was just less than 960. This represents a huge jump in the past few decades. In 2000, for example, less than 400 people died from overdoses.
This may be the scariest Colorado drug use statistic. One reason why it’s so scary is that this overdose rate is much higher than most other states. During the same year, Iowa only saw about 180 fatal overdoses. And even Texas, which has a population five times as large as Colorado’s, saw less than 1400 overdose deaths.
States with an “average” overdose rate, like Arkansas and Washington, each lose between 13 and 16 people per 100,000 residents to drugs. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado loses 19 out of every 100,000 residents to a drug overdose.
In Fact, Overdoses Kill More Residents Than Car Accidents Do
960 is a pretty sad number when you consider the fact that fewer people died in car accidents last year. Actually, much fewer people died in car accidents.
But, no matter how big of an increase that is, it’s still 300 less than the state’s drug overdose count.
Are you or a loved one struggling with drug addiction? It’s time to stop the problem before it gets worse. Take our drug addiction test to find out whether or not you need treatment.
There are Legal Forms of Heroin Here, Too
It’s well-known that prescription painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin are very similar to heroin. Their connection is well-documented. They both belong to the opioid class of drugs because they affect the brain in a similar way.
In fact, many current heroin addicts started off by abusing their prescription pain meds. Specifically, around 75% of heroin users began by taking prescription opioids.
But, one lesser known fact is that a drug called “U-47700” is currently running rampant in the Rocky Mountain region. Like heroin, this opioid is extremely addictive. Actually, it’s so potent that opioid addicts often dilute it with a bit of heroin or fentanyl. This helps to decrease the effects of U-47700.
U-47700 is remarkably similar to heroin and other opioids. But, there are currently no regulations against it in Colorado.
Typically, U-47700 is purchased online. This makes it very difficult for states to regulate. However, many states have made strides to outlaw the drug. For example, South Dakota has placed it into Schedule I under their Controlled Substances regulations. This ensures that people who are caught with it are tried accordingly. Florida and Ohio have taken similar measures, too.
But, Colorado has yet to take action against the drug. Currently, Colorado residents are still free to purchase and use U-447700. This is quite dangerous because the drug is deadly. To date, it’s only killed a few dozen people in America. But, this is probably because so few people know about it.
Over time, we’re likely to see more people overdose on the drug. And, unless Colorado does something to prevent this, the drug could potentially reek havoc in the community.
If you are a current heroin user, it’s time to get help. The longer you use, the greater the risk of overdose. Take our online heroin addiction assessment. We’ll take a look at your habit and recommend some treatment options.
What Colorado is Doing About Addiction to Meth
In the past three years, meth-related crimes among adults have tripled. It’s cheap and easy to get and highly addictive. State-funded treatment centers across Colorado are full which can be contributed to meth addiction. The Colorado Meth Project has launched a new campaign which included a video contest to raise awareness of the dangers of meth. Police had successfully closed small meth labs around the state but the Mexican cartel is keeping Colorado stocked. Police now are paying close attention to the borders and confiscating large amounts of shipments all the time. There are measures being taken but at this point police say as long as there is meth, there will be customers using it.
Colorado Still Has a Huge Drinking Problem
According to many sources, legalized pot had a huge effect on alcohol sales in Colorado. In Aspen, marijuana sales totaled more than alcohol sales for the first time in any city just last year. Many people predict that alcohol sales will continue to dwindle in the coming years.
But, that doesn’t mean that Coloradans have stopped drinking entirely. In fact, many folks are drinking more than ever. Alcohol abuse isn’t a problem that’s going to go away.
In 2017, drunk-driving accidents in Colorado killed more than 600 people.
Of course, excessive alcohol consumption and binge-drinking are signs of alcohol addiction. So, it appears that 1 in 5 adults in Colorado could be considered alcoholics.
This frightening statistic is compounded by the state’s alarming DUI numbers. Currently, DUI rates are at an all-time high in Colorado. In 2017, more than 60 people were arrested for driving under the influence every single day.
And, many of them are responsible for causing collisions. Some of these crashes were fatal. Last year alone, Colorado drunk drivers caused almost 600 fatal crashes. In total, these crashes killed roughly 635 people.
So, it’s quite clear that the Centennial State has a big drinking problem on its hands. And, while alcohol sales are decreasing, alcoholism is still an issue that we need to pay attention to.
Are you currently struggling with an alcohol abuse problem? Could you benefit from professional treatment? You don’t have to suffer alone. Take our free online assessment to get some clear answers.
Colorado Businesses Dropping Marijuana from Drug Tests
Less Colorado businesses are doing pre-employment drug testing of marijuana by 15%. Making marijuana a part of drug testing has slowly been declining for the past few years. This is largely due to the unemployment rate as opposed to the legalization of marijuana.
What the State of Colorado is doing about Opioid Addiction
With alarming figures such as 472 people dying in 2015, the state is doing all it can to stop the epidemic. In the state Senate, everyone approved legislation to develop a substance abuse research center at the University of Colorado. Another bill is launching a pilot project to two counties that have been especially affected by opioids.
Pueblo and Routt counties will be receiving more medication-assisted treatment. The program was given $1 million to train medical practitioners to administer buprenorphine to ease withdrawal symptoms. The other measure is to develop substance abuse strategies through the research center at Colorado University. Ironically, it is marijuana taxes from Colorado that is paying for the programs.
Funded Research in Colorado on how Marijuana Can Replace Prescription Opioids for Pain
But, a debate is currently going on in the Colorado Assembly around the efficacy of marijuana for pain management. The Assembly is trying to decide whether or not doctors should be allowed to recommend marijuana for acute pain conditions.
Currently, most doctors recommend that their patients take opioid painkillers for illnesses like fibromyalgia. But, in the future, they may recommend medical marijuana instead.
A similar bill was recently passed in Illinois. Under Illinois’ new law, doctors are permitted to prescribe marijuana to patients who are already taking prescription opioids like Vicodin or fentanyl.
This idea is informed by research taking place it institutions like The University of Colorado. One study, for example, shows that THC has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, it may be able to prevent and treat pain in patients who are prone to it.
In some sense, this could be beneficial for many people. Marijuana, of course, has a far lower risk of overdose than opioids. Whereas prescription opioids cause tens of thousands of overdose deaths every year, weed has not caused any. So, if the bill passed, it could help to limit access to deadlier drugs.
Please Note: AspenRidge North Does Not Endorse Marijuana
AspenRidge North is a drug addiction treatment facility. We strongly oppose the use of any psychoactive drugs. Marijuana is proven to be addictive and can have long-lasting effects on the body.
Although no one has died of a marijuana overdose, it can still have very negative consequences for regular users. Chronic use can lead to lung cancer, brain damage, and other conditions. We’ve seen the effects of marijuana user disorder and do not condone the drug in any way. However, it’s our job to educate the public so we feel it’s important to present the facts objectively.
It’s Time to End Drug Addiction in Colorado
Colorado’s overdose rates are alarming. The rate at which our friends, family members, and neighbors are dying is nothing short of an emergency. While the state is making big strides to help the addict community get sober, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
If you or a loved one is currently battling a drug addiction, we want to help. Whether you’re addicted to opioids, cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, or anything else, we want to see you turn your life around.
We’ve been lucky enough to watch hundreds of Colorado residents get back on the right track. We want to see you get better, too.
AspenRidge North is committed to providing affordable drug rehabilitation. That’s why we’ll work with your insurance provider to ensure that you get professional treatment for a price you can afford. We also offer payment plans to help you get the assistance you need today instead of tomorrow.
Please give us a call today. It’s time for you to get on the road to recovery.
- NIDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse (Feb, 2014) Drug Abuse Patterns and Trends in Colorado and the Denver/Boulder Metropolitan Area. Retrieved from, https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/organization/workgroups-interest-groups-consortia/community-epidemiology-work-group-cewg/meeting-reports/highlights-summaries-january-2014-4
- NCBI, Addiction Science and Clinical Practice (2012) Return to drug use and overdose after release from prison: a qualitative study of risk and protective factors. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3414824/
- NCBI, CMAJ (2010). More evidence cannabis can help in neuropathic pain. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2950178/
- NCBI, JAMA (April 2015). The Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Retrieved by, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404298/
- NCBI, Drug Alcohol Depend. Author manuscript; available in PMC (2014). National Trends in Pharmaceutical Opioid Related Overdose Deaths Compared to other Substance Related Overdose Deaths. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3935414/
- NCBI, National Library of Medicine (March 2017) Heroin and Methamphetamine Injection: An Emerging Drug Use Pattern. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/28323507/