Heroin-related deaths in Colorado increasing at alarming rate

We brought in an expert.

DENVER - A new report highlights what we've been talking about a lot lately. Heroin. The highly-addictive drug that seems to target, well everyone.

A multi-agency report finds heroin-related deaths among Colorado residents are up - really up. 

They've doubled between 2011 and 2015. Last year, 160 Coloradans died because of the drug.

What's more, there has been a 2,035-percent increase in the number of heroin-induced seizures during that same time period.

The Heroin in Colorado: Preliminary Assessment includes data collected from numerous agencies, as well as results from a first-ever survey of 713 individuals receiving methadone treatment in the Denver-Metro area.

So what makes a person decide to try such an obviously dangerous drug?  The methadone clinic survey finds many are transitioning from prescription painkillers, specifically opioids. They found 70-percent of those surveyed said the pills played a role in their decision to use heroin.

That same survey underscores the fact that heroin use spans across a wide range of demographics. So whether you're white, black, rich, poor, educated or not -- this is a problem we should all care about.

"It's not an easy problem, it's very complicated," says Dr. Larry Wolk, the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health. 

According to Dr. Wolk, perhaps the most startling thing about what the study found is that there continues to be a rise in hospitalizations and overdoses, and even deaths as it relates to heroin abuse in the state.

"This spans all economic classes, this is not just amongst poor people, or just amongst rich people, it's amongst the poor, the rich, the middle income," Wolk said. 

This effort to address the heroin epidemic in Colorado was lead by multiple federal, state and local agencies.

The Heroin Response Work Group Steering Committee:

  • Jose Esquibel, Attorney General’s Office, Office of Community Engagement
  • Tom Gorman (Co-Chair), Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area
  • Jerrod McCoy, Colorado Department of Human Services, Behavioral Health Section
  • Lindsey Myers (Co-Chair), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,
  • Violence and Injury Prevention – Mental Health Promotion Branch
  • Barbra Roach, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Robert Valuck, University of Colorado – Denver
  • Rourke Weaver, Red Rock Recovery Center

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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