Colorado’s Death Rate from Drugs Higher than U.S. Average

More people die from drug overdoses in Colorado than the national average, according to a report from the Colorado Health Institute.

A total of 899 people died in Colorado from drug overdose in 2014, an average of 16.3 people per 100,000 citizens. The national average for drug-related deaths is 14.7 per 100,000, according to the report.

The state’s drug overdose death rate increased 68 percent from 2002 to 2014. The rates increased in every county except Mineral County.

The epidemic seems to be affecting rural parts of Colorado more than metropolitan areas, too. Seven Colorado counties have drug-related death rates greater than 20 per 100,000. They include Baca, Bent, Conejos, Rio Grande, Las Animas, Costilla and Huerfano counties. Metropolitan Adams, Denver and Pueblo counties also have death rates higher than 20 per 100,000.

The death rate in Baca County grew from between 4.1 and 6.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2002 to more than 20 per 100,000 in 2014. Huerfano County has consistently ranked among the counties with the highest drug overdose death rates for the past 12 years.

The report used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Centers for Health Statistics.

The increase in death rates in Colorado has coincided with increases in deaths nationally from prescription drugs and heroin. More people died of opioid overdose nationally in 2014 than any previous year on record, according to the CDC.

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The national number of drug overdose deaths totaled 47,055 in 2014, a growth of more than 3,000 from 2013. The number of drug overdose deaths nationally in 2014 was more than double the number of people who died from drugs in 2000.

Colorado’s drug-related death rate was the 24th highest in the United States. West Virginia and New Mexico had the highest death rates at 35.5 and 27.3 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.

Treatment admissions for people suffering from addiction to heroin grew from 4,542 to 6,216 in 2014. Meanwhile, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, admissions for addiction to other opiates — like prescription painkillers — decreased from 3,137 to 2,892.

Law enforcement has taken increased action to combat the growing epidemic in Colorado, too.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in coordination with several local and national tasks forces, arrested 24 individuals in a Mexican drug trafficking organization in May of 2015. The agencies seized 273 pounds of heroin, 31 pounds of methamphetamine and 25 pounds of cocaine in the bust. The drugs and other assets seized were worth more than $44 million.

The state has also implemented several campaigns to raise awareness regarding the dangers of prescription drugs. Efforts include the development of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, the Take Meds Seriously campaign and the Colorado Medication Take-Back Program.

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