Denver is known as the drug- and alcohol-friendly city. But all this friendliness has repercussions that spread throughout not only Denver but the surrounding counties as well. What’s going on?
Colorado is currently confronting an epidemic of opioid use disorders and overdoses. It has been estimated by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment that 224,000 Coloradan’s misuse of prescription drugs every year. The rate of drug overdoses eclipses the national rate with opioid overdoses being instrumental in a large proportion of overdose deaths.
The National Surveys on Drug Use and Health Substance Use and Mental Disorders in Selected Metropolitan Statistical Areas reported that the highest concentration of substance abuse was in the Denver-Aurora-Bloomfield metro area. That includes the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, and Park. The nonmedical use of pain relievers in this area is about 25% higher than the rest of the state.
Prescription drug overdose prevention efforts are especially high in Jefferson County, where the growing older population is more vulnerable to chronic pain. There is a higher frequency of shady prescription practices and patient behaviors and a higher rate of ER visits and deaths from opioid overdoses.
The main drug market areas in Colorado are in the Front Range counties. Denver is a major regional distribution center for an assortment of illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and MDMA. Wholesalers in Denver supply retailers in basically every city in Colorado as well as cities in several other states.
The Denver Public Health Department released information that 27% of Denver adults binge drink. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women over two hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Binge drinking is associated with several health problems including car accidents, falls, violence, and chronic diseases like depression, high blood pressure, stroke cirrhosis, and cancer.
Out of about 30,000 people who went to the Denver Health emergency room for a substance-related issue, the main cause was alcohol abuse. Thirty-eight percent of motor-vehicle fatalities in Denver involved alcohol. This is a high proportion when compared to other urban areas, according to national transportation statistics.
Supporting factors for the high rate of alcohol misuse are the low culture of alcohol and low alcohol taxes in the area. Increasing the prices for alcohol through higher taxes is one method for curbing excessive use. Colorado currently ranks 39th in taxes on wine, 46th in taxes on beer and 47th in taxes on spirits.
Colorado ranks 45th among the states in alcohol-related deaths. Researchers found that alcohol deaths in Colorado rose 57% between 2005 and 2017—20 percentage points higher than the national rate. Nearly 10 in 100,000 Americans died from an alcohol-related death in 2017. It was nearly 17 in 100,000 in Colorado.
Chances are, you (or a loved one) are right now struggling with one or more substance use disorders (SUDs). You may be wondering whether a SUD can be treated. The truth is yes, it can, but it isn’t easy. Because it is a chronic disease, you can’t just stop for a few days and be cured. Most people need long-term care, beginning with detoxification followed by treatment and therapy.
Because no single treatment is right for everyone, for treatment to work, you need to find the right type of treatment program for you. An assessment by a professional addiction specialist or your doctor will help determine which would be best. Considerations might be:
Hospital emergency rooms are set up to serve people with gunshot wounds or heart attacks, not mental health issues. But they are full of patients having suicidal thoughts or panic attacks, looking for some kind of treatment. They are typically given phone numbers of local therapists but no treatment.
The total adult population of Colorado 4.3 million. It is estimated that the number of people with schizophrenia is 48,000 and 96,000 for those with severe bipolar disorder.
It is about a five-month wait to see a psychiatrist in Denver. Colorado only has 15 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. That’s compared to 92 primary care physicians to every 100,000. According to the American Hospital Association, Colorado hospitals have fewer psychiatric hospital beds per capita than most states.
As a result, a statewide advocacy organization, Mental Health Colorado, is committed to helping people get access to mental health and substance use treatment. Governor Jared Polis pointed out the need to reach out to the rural and agricultural communities to make sure they are being heard.
Like every state, Colorado incarcerates more people with severe mental illness than it hospitalizes. Criminal justice officials are countering this with new programs designed to divert individuals with severe mental illness away from the criminal justice system. The two most hopeful programs are mental health courts and crisis intervention training (CIT).
In addition, these policies have been recommended:
Approximately 50% of people with severe mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse. Thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one co-occurring mental illness. Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse either drugs or alcohol.
When you have a SUD and a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, it is called a comorbid condition or a dual diagnosis. Dealing with substance addiction is even more difficult when you are also dealing with a mental disorder.
Mental health and substance issues have unique symptoms that may inhibit your ability to function at school or work, maintain a stable home life, handle difficulties, and have connections with others. And the comorbid conditions also affect each other, which further complicates the problem. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the SUD gets worse. Likewise, when substance abuse increases, mental health problems usually get worse too.
Because addiction is a complex brain disease that affects brain function and behavior, people need quick access to treatment that is specifically designed for them.
Like most people, you will probably need a detox program to help you safely through the symptoms of withdrawal. This is not treatment in itself, but the first step in the process. Patients who don’t secure further treatment usually restart their drug or alcohol use.
A study of treatment centers found that medications were used in almost 80% of detoxifications. Symptoms of withdrawal from substances can be physically and psychologically painful. Alcohol and opioids produce significant withdrawal symptoms, including sweating and nausea. These symptoms can lead to serious complications if not supervised by a medical professional.
Cocaine and marijuana withdrawal typically presents as emotional issues, including irritability and depression. Severe depression symptoms can lead to suicidal thoughts. These presentations can last a few days to a few months. Therefore, medically assisted treatment (MAT) is used during detox and into treatment. MAT is also used as an aid to relapse prevention.
There is a treatment center that offers several treatment programs. Because every person is different, treatment plans are designed to suit your specific needs. Programs include:
The usual therapies used in our programs include:
Footprints to Recovery in Colorado offers programs to specifically assist you in a smooth transition into a more independent life and continuing sobriety. These programs are immensely helpful in relapse prevention.
This is one of the main concerns for people who need treatment. And one of the main reasons people don’t seek treatment. Footprints to Recovery has financial advisors who can help you figure out a way to get you started.
Lakewood is a Mile High City suburb that is just 15 minutes from Denver and is the largest city in Jefferson County, with a population of 154,958 as of 2017. It offers a bunch of things to do, from special events to get involved in the arts. From 2014 onward, Lakewood has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live. Being a great place to live includes being a great place to work. A growing economy helps the tax base, so there is funding for city improvements.
The city of Lakewood was incorporated in 1969 as Jefferson City. The residents “overwhelmingly disliked” the name because they believed it would be confused with other Jefferson Cities in Colorado and Missouri. An election was held, and the name was changed to Lakewood.
Due to its location near the Rocky Mountains, there are a plethora of cultural offerings and other diverse things to do. A collection of lakes provides opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating.
Government data shows that the United States is diverse in its consumption of intoxicating substances. Every year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey Americans age 12 and older. Participants are asked about whether they use opioid painkillers for nonmedical reasons, marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine.
Colorado is the only state that ranks as a top consumer of all four. Heavy consumption of marijuana is not a surprise because it is legal there.
Thousands of families and individuals in Colorado are affected by drug and alcohol misuse. In 2015, the Colorado Behavioral Health Barometer reported that 85% of the people over age 12 who had substance use dependence issues from 2010 to 2014 did not go for treatment at a rehab or any other type of facility. Substance use disorders are also higher for people over the age of 12 in Colorado than the national average.
A report from the nonprofit group Mental Health America found that Colorado ranked 43rd of all 50 states in the prevalence of mental health issues and access to treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 19.55% of residents are living with some kind of mental illness. That’s the third-highest rate in the country.
According to Mental Health Colorado president Andrew Romanoff, “Our kids have some of the highest substance use disorder rates in the country. Most kids are not getting screened appropriately and not getting treated effectively, and they’re suffering and struggling as a result.”
Recovery is possible. Are you ready to help yourself or a loved one achieve a full and fulfilling life? It’s as easy as contacting us at Footprints to Recovery. And as difficult as picking up your phone.
We have admissions specialists waiting to talk to you day and night, seven days a week. A consultation is free and completely confidential. Now that you are armed with information, you have no more excuses. Contact us today.