Colorado drug related deaths increasing at "epidemic" proportions

Overdose rates highest in Denver area

DENVER - The number of drug-related deaths around Colorado has nearly doubled, according to the latest study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Colorado Health Institute.

The results, which includes drug-related deaths from 2002-2014, show every county except one in Colorado experienced an increase.

Twelve, had an overdose rate of more than 20 for every 100,000 residents, making them among some of the highest in the nation.

“The biggest thing that surprised us was how widespread we saw the death rate increase,” said Tamara Keeney, Policy Analyst for the Colorado Health Institute.

Denver, Adams and Pueblo counties were among the worst.

Seven others, including Baca and Huerfano, are in the Southern part of the state in more rural areas.

"I think it’s really important that we know that overdose doesn’t discriminate with age race, housed not housed,” said Lisa Raville, who works for the Harm Reduction Center, the largest needle swap program in the state, “I think it’s important that that report brought to light rural counties have a big issue.”  

According to the study, the majority of overdoses are from prescription drugs and heroin.

Raville says there are more than 5,000 injectors in Denver alone and the number of heroin user has increased in the last year because heroin is cheaper to buy than most prescription drugs. 

 "Far too often were having to put our folks picture up on the overdose memorial,” she said, ‘cause we are losing people left and right.”

Both Raville and Keeney hope the study will start a conversation on the need for more programs and aid for addicts.

 “The next step will really be to be looking at different policies that can target drug use and also be looking at different prevention programs,” Keeney said. 

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