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The facts on heroin and opiate addiction in Colorado

Posted on March 16, 2020

Abuse of heroin and prescription opiates is a pervasive public health problem across the United States. Individuals facing a court date for an addiction-related crime in Colorado may qualify for substance use treatment in lieu of jail time. 

Learn more about the scope of this issue in the state, and steps to take if you struggle with heroin or opiate addiction. 

Colorado overdose deaths 

According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid overdose deaths in Colorado are below the national average. However, between 2010 and 2017, the state has experienced a five-time increase in fatal heroin overdoses, as well as double the number of overdose deaths from fentanyl, methadone and other prescription opioids. 

Neonatal opioid exposures 

Opioid use during pregnancy can lead to neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. Across the nation, data shows a five-fold increase in NOWS births from 2004 to 2014. The most recent data in Colorado reflects a 69% increase in NOWS from 2011 to 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available. 

Infectious diseases 

More than 17% of new HIV infections among Colorado men in 2016 affected intravenous heroin uses. Among women in the same year, 24% of new infections stemmed from IV drug injections. Although state numbers are not available, nearly 69% of new hepatitis C cases in the U.S. in 2016 resulted from IV drug use. 

Treatment for opioid use disorder

If you or a family member uses heroin or prescription opiates, the Colorado Department of Human Services recommends seeking a medication-assisted treatment program. With this treatment, the person receives medications to ease the painful withdrawal symptoms associated with discontinuing opioid use, under the supervision of a health care provider.

After medical detox, an individual with opioid use disorder will benefit from a combination of behavioral therapy, peer support and treatment for underlying mental health conditions. Successfully completing addiction treatment reduces the risk of complications of substance use, including but not limited to associated health problems and overdose.