Denver got its nickname “The Mile-High City” because its official elevation is 5,280 feet, exactly one mile above sea level. But it is also known nationally as a drug-and-alcohol-friendly city. Some might say the nickname has two meanings.
Colorado has long been known for the production and consumption of more common drugs. The state has a long-established and significant brewing industry. Additionally, it was one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana since the states first started banning the drug in the 1910s. Colorado is now the home to a thriving pot industry.
Colorado is currently facing an epidemic of opioid use disorders and overdoses. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment has estimated that 224,000 Coloradans misuse prescription drugs every year. The rate of drug overdoses surpasses the national rate with opioid overdoses contributing to a large proportion of overdose deaths.
A national survey reported that the highest accumulation of substance abuse was in the Denver-Aurora-Bloomfield metro area. This area includes the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, and Park. Nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers in this area is about 25% higher than the rest of the state.
Opioid overdoses that ended in death increased in the state by three times from 2000 to 2015. This includes heroin and opioid painkiller deaths. Experts are hoping the opioid epidemic will not be as extensive and long-lasting as the methamphetamine situation, which declined in the late 2000s but a new meth epidemic has resurged in the rural counties.
The Front Range counties are the main drug market areas in Colorado, with Denver being a major distribution center in the region for a variety of illicit drugs including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and marijuana. Wholesalers in Denver supply retailers in essentially every city in Colorado, in addition to other states.
The four illicit drugs that drive the drug epidemic are:
Information released by the Denver Public Health Department revealed that 27% of Denver adults are binge drinkers. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women over the course of two hours, qualifies as binge drinking according to the Centers for Disease Control.
There are five alcohol-related deaths every day in Colorado. Binge drinking is correlated with a variety of health problems including chronic diseases such as depression, high blood pressure, stroke, cirrhosis, and cancer, falls, violence, and car accidents.
Approximately 30,000 people went to the Denver Health emergency room for a substance-related problem. The main cause was alcohol abuse. Thirty-eight percent of motor-vehicle deaths in Denver involved alcohol. This percentage is high when compared to other urban areas, according to national transportation statistics. Among the states, Colorado ranks 45th in alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol fatalities in Colorado rose 57% between 2005 and 2017. That is 20% higher than the national rate.
Hospital treatment admissions were highest for those abusing alcohol, according to the state’s Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force. More than half were for alcohol and the next highest was for marijuana–two legal drugs.
Factors that support the high rate of alcohol misuse are the local culture of alcohol use and the low taxes on alcohol in the area. Increasing prices of alcohol through raising taxes is one method for curbing excessive use that has been considered. At this time, Colorado ranks 39th in taxes on wine, 46th in taxes on beer, and 47th in taxes on spirits.
It is likely that you, or someone close to you, are struggling right now with one or more substance use disorders (SUDs). After all, you’ve just read, you might be wondering if a SUD can be successfully treated. It can be treated but it will take commitment. Because it is a chronic disease, that alters the brain, you can’t just stop for a few days and call it a cure. For most people, treatment will begin with detoxification followed by a treatment program that includes therapy.
It is a fact that no single treatment program is suitable for everyone. You need to find the right type of program, that will be workable for you. Initially, you will need a professional assessment from your doctor or another addiction specialist to help determine which type of program would be best for you. Considerations might be:
Mental health is defined as a “state of well-being in which every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to their community.”—World Health Organization
Mental health disorders frequently co-occur with SUDs (approximately 45% of the time). The total adult population of Colorado is 4.3 million. It is estimated that the number of people with schizophrenia is 48,000 and 96,000 with severe bipolar disorder.
It is about a 5-month wait to see a psychiatrist in Denver. There are only about 15 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. That’s compared to 92 primary care physicians to every 100,000 people. The American Hospital Association says that Colorado has fewer psychiatric beds than most states.
Because of the inequity, a statewide advocacy organization, Mental Health Colorado, is committed to helping people get access to mental health and substance use treatment. In addition, Denver Health is an organization dedicated to providing therapy and programs to patients age 18 and older who are dealing with mental health issues in both an inpatient and outpatient setting.
It also is offering a variety of mental health programs, inpatient service, and resources for adolescents (8-17 years) with significant emotional and behavioral health issues. There is an outpatient program for children from ages 2-17 on a wide variety of behavioral and emotional disorders.
Colorado confines more people with severe mental illness in jail than it hospitalizes. This is true for every state. Colorado criminal justice officials are countering this with new programs meant to divert people with severe mental illness problems away from the criminal justice system. The two most promising programs are:
Approximately half of individuals with serious mental disorders are also affected by substance use disorders. In addition, thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one co-occurring mental illness. Of all individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, 29% abuse either drugs or alcohol.
When you have a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and an SUD, it is called a comorbid condition or dual diagnosis. Dealing with substance addiction is made even more difficult when there is also a mental disorder.
Substance and mental health issues have particular symptoms that may hinder your ability to function at work or school, maintain a stable home life, handle difficulties, and have relationships with others. And any comorbid conditions also affect each other which further complicates the problem. If a mental health problem goes untreated, the SUD gets worse. Likewise, when substance abuse increases, the mental health problem is likely to get worse too.
There is a treatment center, right there in Denver, that offers several treatment program options. Because every person is different, treatment plans must be designed to suit the individual needs of each patient.
Footprints to Recovery in Denver has programs that can help you make the transition into independent living and continuing sobriety. These programs are a huge help to you for preventing relapse.
One of the main concerns for people who are seeking treatment, and one of the main reasons they don’t get it is the issue of how to pay for it. Footprints to Recovery has financial advisors who can help you make a plan to get you started on your way to recovery. So, take a breath and consider these options:
In the summer of 1858, during the Pike’s Peak gold rush, a group of prospectors from Kansas established Montana City as a mining town on the banks of the South Platte River. This was the first settlement in what became the city of Denver. But by one year later, that name was abandoned in favor of Auraria and St. Charles City.
Land speculators from the eastern Kansas Territory staked a claim to the area on the existing townsite of St. Charles and across from the mining site of Auraria. They named the townsite Denver City to curry favor with Kansas Territorial Governor James Denver in hopes of being named county seat of Arapaho County. Unknown to them, Denver had already resigned from office. The name stayed and Gov. Denver visited his namesake city in 1875 and 1882.
Denver is dedicated to its diverse population. It has one of the largest populations of Mexican Americans a hosts four large Mexican American celebrations and is famous for its commitment to New Mexican cuisine and the chile. Denver is also known for other types of food including Rocky Mountain Oysters, rainbow trout, and the Denver sandwich.
The Dragon Boat Festival, the Moon Festival, and Chinese New Year are big annual events in Denver for the Chinese and Asian-American communities. The Denver area has 2 Chinese newspapers.
Denver has long been a tolerant and welcoming place for the LGBTQ community. Every June Denver hosts the annual Denver PrideFest in Civic Center Park, the largest LGBTQ festival in the Rocky Mountain Area.
All this and it’s average 300 sunny days each year, it’s no wonder Denver is repeatedly voted the best place to live in the country.
Every year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey Americans age 12 and older. Survey participants are asked about whether they use opioid painkillers for non-medical reasons, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine. Colorado is the only state that ranks as a top consumer of all four. Heavy consumption of alcohol and marijuana is not surprising because it is legal there.
There are thousands of people who are personally affected by drug and alcohol abuse in Colorado. Research has shown that 85% of the people over the age of 12 who had substance use issues did not go for treatment at a rehab or any other type of facility. Substance use disorders are higher in Colorado than the national average.
Mental Health America is a non-profit group and reported that Colorado ranked 43rd of all the states in the prevalence of mental health issues and access to treatment. Over 19% of all Coloradans are living with some type of mental illness—the third highest in the country.
So, there you have it. But I’m sure you have more questions and our admissions specialists at Footprints to Recovery are waiting for your call. Consultations are free and completely confidential. Seriously, don’t wait any longer. You can contact us here.