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Colorado has 2nd deadliest year for drug overdose deaths

Nearly a 1,000 Coloradans died from an overdose in 2018, according to a new report from the Colorado Health Institute.

DENVER — Colorado has seen its second deadliest year of drug overdoses.

A new report from the Colorado Health Institute shows nearly a thousand Coloradans died from an overdose last year. In 2018, 974 Coloradans died, which is down from 1,012 deaths recorded in 2017.

Deaths from methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine all increased from 2017, according to the data. 2018 was also the second year in a row with more deaths from meth than heroin.

There were 24 fewer overdose deaths from prescription opioids. Experts believe the decrease has to do with more access to Naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose.

"There's been many, many reversals that have happened in our state, last  year and the year before," said Lisa Raville, the executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center. "Not only by people who use drugs, but people around people at risk of an opioid overdose -- mothers, homeless services providers and me. Then law enforcement now has access."

More than 200 Colorado law enforcement agencies now carry Narcan. The Denver Police Department (DPD) was the first and the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) was the second.

Unfortunately, such an antidote hasn't been discovered for stimulants like meth, cocaine and crack.

"There's a lot of people who use stimulants that don't know they can overdose on stimulants," Raville said.

These specific kind of overdoses tend to look more like a heart attack, stroke or seizure.

Raville said until a reversal drug is discovered, the best line of defense for people is education.

"It's important that stimulant users know that they are at higher risk of overdosing on stimulants," Raville said. "Many people think that it's just an opioid issue."

Raville predicted deaths from prescription opioids will continue to decrease, but said there is likely to still be a problem with heroin overdoses because "the supply is unpredictable."

"Heroin purity in Denver is anywhere between two and 37 percent at all times," she said. "The supply is unpredictable which is one of the main reasons that people overdose and sometimes die."

RELATED: Colorado opioid fight stretches from Denver to D.C.

RELATED: Increased access to overdose-reversal drug saves hundreds in Colorado

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