Emerging Drug Abuse Trends in Colorado

Colorado is internationally renowned for being one of the first states in the US to legalize the recreational possession and sale of marijuana. Today, marijuana reportedly continues to enjoy the status of Colorado’s most commonly used drug.

However, recent research indicates that several other, arguably more dangerous (and certainly more criminal) drugs are becoming increasingly prevalent in our state. According to the National Institute of Health, there has been an upward trend in the use of methamphetamines, heroin, and prescription opiates in our state. Studies also found that alcohol continues to be Colorado’s most frequently abused substance, and cocaine—while on the decline—is still the fourth most common cause of death among total substance-related deaths.

The Most Commonly Abused Substances in Colorado in 2015

Today, substance abuse continues to be a major problem in Colorado, where the rate of drug-induced deaths is higher the national average. An average of 12 percent of Colorado residents report using illicit substances each year, which is notably higher than the national average of eight percent.

Excluding marijuana, the most commonly abused substances in Colorado include:

Alcohol. Year after year, alcohol ranks as the most abused substance in the state. Alcohol is the most frequently mentioned substance in emergency rooms for the Denver area. Untreated alcoholism accounts for some of the state’s most important issues, including violent crimes, homelessness, vehicular crashes, and overcrowded emergency rooms. Each year, Colorado spends billions of dollars on costs related to untreated alcohol abuse.

Cocaine. Although state cocaine indicators have reflected downward trends in treatment admissions, fatalities, and hospital discharges, it remains one of the most commonly abused substances in the state. State agencies have found that powdered cocaine is readily available throughout Colorado, and crack cocaine is more available in urban areas. Cocaine abuse is commonly associated with violent crime in our state.

Methamphetamine. Methamphetamine continues to rank as one of our state’s top drug threats. Statewide, the number of methamphetamine-related calls to emergency centers has risen substantially within the last decade. Colorado treatment providers report that methamphetamine is commonly used with alcohol and cocaine, and owes much of its popularity to its low cost.

Heroin. Heroin mortality rates have increased over recent years as heroin continues to grow in popularity across the country. In Colorado, the number of reported heroin users has doubled within the last year, and the number of residents seeking treatment has tripled.

Prescription opiods/opiates. While prescription opiates are less common than heroin, this type of drug represents an increasing percentage of treatment admissions. Common prescription opiates include oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other pain reliever medications.

As substances such as heroin, prescription opiates, and methamphetamine rise in popularity, state officials are coming down harder on drug crimes. If you are charged with possession, sale, or manufacturing these or other illicit substances, you can face lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines. Any type of controlled substance charge carries serious, life-altering consequences, and demands aggressive legal representation.

When facing drug charges in Colorado, it’s critical to consult with an experienced drug crimes defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand the charges facing you, and build a powerful defense using the strategies that work best with controlled substance charges. With an experienced Colorado drug crimes lawyer on your side, you will be in a better position to have the charges against you reduced or possibly even dropped entirely.


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