COVID Pandemic Drives Rise in Drug Overdose Deaths in Colorado

Drug overdose deaths in Colorado have been on the rise since March, coinciding with the full onset of the coronavirus pandemic, reported The Gazette in September. “By May, according to state health department data, the number of drug overdose deaths reached nearly twice the average from recent years. In May, 128 people died of overdoses in Colorado, compared to 73 in 2019, 79 in 2018, and 64 in 2017.”
Denver is on pace for a record number of fatal drug overdoses, reported Denverrite on Oct 1. “It took nine months in 2020 for Denver to match the number of fatal drug overdoses from all of last year.” Data show that the majority of drug deaths in the Colorado capital involve multiple substances, “with 60 percent of deaths involving three or more drugs and 19 percent involving five or more. The increase in deaths locally has been fueled by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin.”
Alcohol consumption has also increased significantly across the country. USA Todayreported in October about a new study showing that “American adults, particularly women, are drinking more amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” Alcohol consumption has increased by 14 percent compared with a year ago, including 17 percent for women, according to a report published in the JAMA Network Open. The study also showed a 41 percent increase in heavy drinking for women—defined as four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours and five or more for men.
Mental health and addiction professionals are not surprised to see more cases of substance use disorder (SUD) and more overdose deaths as the pandemic continues. “There are certain things that we know that happen with a stressful event like a pandemic or 9/11 or if the stock market crashes,” the president of the Mental Health Center of Denver, Dr. Carl Clark told The Gazette. “Anxiety goes up, depression goes up, suicides go up, and people’s use of substances goes up.”
Alcohol and drug misuse are strongly correlated with mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Substance use disorders are frequently the result of people under significant stress trying to self-medicate intense stress or mental health issues.
And just when SUD and mental health patients need help the most, outreach programs and treatment providers struggle to help with in-person care limited to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while states—including Colorado—struggle to find the funding for urgently needed support. “In Colorado, substance use treatment and prevention services, behavioral and mental health services saw a $20 million cut in funding as the state tax revenue plunged,” reported The Denver Post.
Harmony Foundation is a dual-diagnosis-capable facility serving clients with SUD and co-occurring mental health disorders. Clients who are diagnosed with mental health issues—such as anxiety, depression, and other trauma-related responses—will meet with our mental health and medical staff to address medication management. We work with our clients to teach them healthy coping skills to help them manage their co-occurring issues.
Despite difficult circumstances, Harmony continues to serve clients during the COVID-19 outbreak and is taking extra precautions to ensure staff and client safety. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction do not delay seeking treatment. If you have questions about our programs, call us at 970.432.8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible

Heroin Users Need Help Not Incarceration


The heroin epidemic in the United States is almost hard to comprehend, especially since the nation has a history of facing narcotic scourges. The rates of abuse and overdoses deaths are staggering, calling on officials to rethink how they look at and deal with substance abuse.

On the eastern seaboard and Appalachian region, officials have seen an unprecedented rate of addiction. Public rehabilitation services are overflowing, infectious disease continues to spread and more people lose their lives with each day that passes.

In Pennsylvania, eight people overdosed on heroin in 70 minutes, in a county of 200,000 people, The Washington Post reports. The rush of overdoses was not the result of a bad batch of the drug or negligent dosing practices among users; it was simply an example of what is resulting from a dramatic rise in heroin use (it is possible that fentanyl was involved). Sadly, more than eight people would overdose that day, in 24 hours there were 16 overdoses in all, and 25 over a two day period.

While three people lost their lives, no question a tragedy, it is worth noting that others were saved by opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone – sold under the brand name Narcan ®. It probably goes without saying, that this recent incident underscores the need for increased naloxone access – especially because the problem does not appear to be subsiding anytime soon.

“There’s been a progressive increase in overdoses the last two years, and it just went out of control,” said Rick Gluth, supervising detective on the district attorney’s drug task force. “I’ve been a police officer for 27 years and worked narcotics for the last 15, and this is the worst. I’d be glad to have the crack epidemic back.”

In the past, users would be incarcerated for their acts, but this does little to address the problem of addiction. Approaching addiction as a disease has more and more states offering treatment over jail. The U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania and co-chair of the National Heroin Task Force established by the Justice Department, David J. Hickton, believes users need help not incarceration, according to the article.

“There is a growing sense of community outrage that we can’t accept this like we are accepting it,” said Hickton. “We just can’t go on like this.”

“If they’re using and trafficking, I prosecute them,” he said. “If they’re just using, they need help.”


If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Public Schools Screen for Substance Abuse


A number of states across the country have seen a dramatic rise in overdose deaths related to prescription opioids or heroin. Naturally, as the affected states work to combat this crisis there is a lot of concern about teenage substance abuse. In Massachusetts, a state which saw more than 1,000 overdose deaths last year, child advocates are calling for substance abuse screening in public schools, WBUR reports. Screenings could help school nurses identify the students who may be in need of help before a problem gets even more out of hand.

School nurses already screen for hearing and vision problems, why not add substance abuse screening to the list? Currently, eight schools in MA have already started screening, with seven more districts expected to follow this fall, according to the article.

“Similar to the way they do hearing and eye tests, all with the goal that this is a normal process where kids are brought into their nursing offices and given a screening,” said Mary McGeown, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Identifying a problem early on could potentially save the lives of teens who might look to opioids for their next high. Many teens are unaware just how addictive and life threatening these types of drugs can be.

“In about 10 percent of the cases there is brief counseling, that the individual reports that they have used alcohol or have used marijuana,” said McGeown.

“In a very, very small percentage of those 10 percent, really 1 or 2 percent, there’s a referral to treatment,” she added. “And it’s at that point that a parent would be called.” Lawmakers are meeting today to discuss a bill that would take the program statewide.


If you are currently struggling with opioids and are need of help, please do not hesitate to contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths Rise in 26 States

In a number of states, especially the ones hardest hit by prescription opioid abuse, drastic measure have been taken to curb the problem. While such efforts have shown promise, such as prescription drug monitoring programs and greater access to naloxone, many states are still seeing a rise in overdose deaths. New research suggests that the number of drug overdose deaths rose in 26 states between 2009 and 2013, Reuters reports. Only six states saw a decrease in overdose deaths during the same time period.

The study was conducted by the nonprofit group Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Their findings indicated that an estimated 44,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2013, a figure which is more than double the number found in 1999. Drug overdoses were responsible for more deaths in 36 states than motor vehicle-related deaths, according to the article.

In 2013, almost 52 percent of overdose deaths were related to prescription drugs. The two types of prescription drugs that were linked to the majority of overdoses were opioid painkillers and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications, such as OxyContin ® (oxycodone) and Xanax ® (alprazolam). The study found that more than 16,000 deaths were related to opioids and almost 7,000 were tied to benzodiazepines and sleep medications.

The report clearly shows the need for more access and training to the life saving overdose reversal drug naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan ®. There are 34 states and D.C. which have laws in place to expand access to, and use of, naloxone, according to the study. 

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment 

If you are currently struggling with prescription drugs, and are need of help, please do not hesitate to contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation