The opioid addiction crisis currently sweeping the United States has left no district and no county untouched, including Colorado. The number of opioid-related deaths and overdoses over the past several years are startling and the growing epidemic has prompted the formation of a designated committee to address the significant issues fueling the crisis.
A New Committee
The Colorado Legislature has approved the formation of the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee. This bipartisan group is made up of ten senators and representatives from across the state, gathering together to discuss potential policy avenues to address the current opioid public health crisis.
Rep. Brittany Pettersen requested the establishment of such a committee after her own personal experience with opioid addiction. Her mother struggled with addiction to prescription opiates and watching her fight that battle inspired Pettersen to work for change. She is chairwoman of the new committee, which held its inaugural meeting on Monday, July 10, 2017.
The committee is charged with the following tasks:
- To review and analyze available data on substance abuse in Colorado.
- To identify gaps in current treatment and other resource options.
- To develop policies and recommendations that address those gaps and remove existing barriers to treatment.
The committee will meet up to six times over the summer of 2017, and works collaboratively with representatives from other interested groups and organizations, including pharmacists, law enforcement, and recovery professionals.
Opioid use and overdose have increased in Colorado over the past several years, fueled in part by the over-prescription of opioids by doctors. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing released a report illustrating some statistics:
- In 2015, one Coloradoan died every 36 hours from opioid overdose.
- 259 of those deaths were from prescription opiates.
- Opioid overdose deaths outstripped homicides in Colorado in 2015.
- Neonatal opioid addiction has risen 91 percent since 2012.
A 2016 report from the Surgeon General of the United States claims that 8 percent of Americans meet the criteria for substance abuse disorder, and 18.9 million people reported misusing prescription opiates.
The prescription opioid crisis is also being blamed for a resurgence in heroin abuse. In 2016, Colorado heroin overdoses rose 23 percent. Heroin and prescription opioids are chemically similar and produce similar effects in the brain. However, heroin is often cheaper and easier to find, especially if a doctor cuts off prescription opiates from an addicted patient.
Adding to the opioid epidemic is the increasing prevalence of fentanyl, a synthetic drug that produces an intense and highly addictive reaction. Two milligrams of fentanyl is considered deadly and the potent drug is behind a significant number of accidental overdoses.
Hope for Colorado Residents
The new committee’s task is large and complicated and will require the collaborative efforts of everybody involved. Formation of the committee represents a ray of hope in an increasingly dark time for people suffering from substance abuse disorder in Colorado.
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction in Colorado, Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is ready to help. Located less than an hour from Denver, we pair expert care with a scenic setting. Our treatment plans are customized to suit your individual needs and span the full continuum of recovery, start to finish. Contact us today to begin your journey to wellness.