Opioid Abuse on the Rise in Colorado

A recent survey from SAMHSA suggests that opioid abuse is on the rise in Western states including Colorado.

About 5 years ago, painkiller addiction reigned in Southern and Appalachian states. The abuse of opiates like OxyContin was well known as “hillbilly heroin” from the high percentage of southerners abusing it. But today states like Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Idaho have among the highest rates of opioid abuse.

For example, according to SAMHSA, as many as 6.5% of Oregon residents abuse opioids and deaths from overdoses climbed 172% between 2004 and 2011. Southern states like Kentucky have seen a reduction in painkiller abuse at 4.5% ranking it at 31 in 2011 compared to 6 in 2009. Many attribute this to policies that were enacted following statistics of opioid abuse. When the statistics were high in the South, there were several efforts made to curb abuse such as creating state task forces to crack down on prescribing privileges of physicians and the enforcement of harsher penalties for illegal possession and using false prescriptions.

The growing rate of opiate abuse in the West is attributed to a greater supply of prescription painkillers from drug trafficking rings and lenient prescribing rights for doctors who operate “pill mills” with limited restrictions. Recent articles have covered incidences of doctors in Nevada and Southern California who are recklessly prescribing large quantities of oxycodone.

The drugs are then transported to neighboring states like Colorado – a state that has seen its fair share of prescription drug overdoses and is working to curb them. For example, Colorado addiction treatment centers have stepped up their specialized programs for those addicted to opioids and the Colorado School of Public Health has created an online course to train prescribers statewide. The course gives healthcare providers guidelines on pain management. According to Alfred Gilchrist, the CEO of the Colorado Medical Society, “The goal of this private-public initiative is to help improve practice, address the epidemic of opioid prescription-associated health problems and improve care.” The course includes training on assessing risk for addiction, using the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to stop those who engage in “doctor shopping” and other risk reduction practices.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction and are seeking addiction treatment for painkillers, Harmony Colorado has affordable addiction treatment programs for men and women suffering from prescription addiction.