Cocaine Abuse Statistics and Trends in Colorado

Written by Abby Doty

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 07/14/2022

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Updated 07/14/2022

Since 2012, Colorado has been at the center of national drug policy reform after approving a bill legalizing marijuana. A bill introduced in 2019 transforms drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor if the amount is fewer than four grams of illicit drugs (including cocaine). However, upon closer inspection, some alarming trends are also emerging — some of which began taking shape in the early 2000s.

Recent data show that Colorado ranks #7 in the nation for states with the worst drug problems, based upon factors like overdose rates and drug arrests. Even more discouraging is that drug-related deaths are consistently on the rise. Cocaine is one substance that has contributed to drug-related problems in the state. Understanding the latest facts about cocaine use and cocaine statistics in Colorado provides a more thorough view into what’s happening in the state and across the country.

Cocaine Use in Colorado vs. America as a Whole

How does Colorado’s cocaine use compare with cocaine use in America? In 2019, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a survey that provided information on cocaine use statistics across the country. Results revealed that between 2002 and 2019, cocaine use within the past year in people aged 12 and older decreased from 2.5% to 2.0%.

Results showed that around 5.5 million people in the United States used cocaine at some point during the previous year, as of 2019. State-level data from the survey revealed that past-year cocaine use in Colorado was slightly higher than the national average of 2.0%, with 2.66% of people aged 12 or older in Colorado reporting they used cocaine within the previous year. The rate of cocaine use was especially high among those aged 18–25, with 7.48% of those in this age group using cocaine within the past year.

Compared to the nation and other states, Colorado’s drug use, in general, is relatively high. SAMHSA data show that 19.32% of those in Colorado use illegal drugs within a given year, compared to 13.24% across the entire United States.

Contributing Factors to Current Trends

Colorado’s location may be partly responsible for its high cocaine use. Easy access to eight different interstates and a central location make it an ideal spot for drug dealers crossing the borders to the north or south of the United States.

Gangs and organized crime groups also have several methods for distributing cocaine and other drugs in urban and suburban areas. Because of the state’s proximity to drug-production sites in California and Arizona, traffickers are easily able to transport illicit substances into Colorado via vehicles, package-delivery services and even aircraft.

Cocaine Use by Age

In Colorado and across the country, cocaine use seems to peak during young adulthood and level off during the later adult years. In general, more men typically use cocaine than women in all states, according to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

Cocaine Statistics in Adults

Cocaine statistics show that the prevalence of cocaine use among adults in Colorado varies depending upon their age. Once people reach the age of 26 and older, cocaine use tends to drop. The most recent Colorado data show that 2.18% of those aged 26 and above use cocaine within a given year.

Cocaine Statistics in Teens/Young Adults

How many teens use cocaine? Overall, teenage cocaine use is relatively low in Colorado. Among those aged 12–17, 0.38% had used cocaine within the past year, as of 2020. Cocaine use for young adults in Colorado jumps significantly when compared to the teenage years, as 7.48% of those aged 18 to 25 report using cocaine within the previous year.

These statistics are consistent with those across the United States. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018 report suggested that around 1.9% of people aged 12 and up used cocaine in the past year across the nation. The same report noted that 5.6% of young adults aged 18 to 25 used cocaine nationwide.

Cocaine Abuse in Seniors

There may not be statistics to demonstrate how Colorado’s seniors are faring, but nationwide, there’s a growing trend of cocaine use in older patients. In addition, SAMHSA noted in a 2017 report that around 4,300 older adults reported using the substance on an average day in the previous month.

Trends in Overdoses & Deaths Caused by Cocaine Use

Drug overdoses as a whole have been on the rise in Colorado and around the nation. This may be closely connected to the opioid crisis in the United States. To illustrate the bigger-picture trends, consider the following statistics on fatal drug overdoses in Colorado:

  • Cocaine and other illicit drugs killed 345 people in 1999.
  • By 2016, overdose deaths had more than doubled, claiming 912 lives.
  • In 2017, the number of fatal overdoses was 1,012.
  • The number of fatal overdoses fell for the first time since 2012, with 974 deaths in 2018.

The number of annual cocaine overdoses has grown sharply in recent years. According to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in the United States, there were around 5,419 cocaine overdose deaths in 2014. The number of cocaine-related deaths climbed to 19,447 as of 2020.

Researchers hypothesize that the rise in the number of people using cocaine and opioids together plays a role in the dramatic increase in cocaine overdose statistics. This hypothesis is supported by NIDA research, which shows that the majority of cocaine overdose deaths involve a synthetic opioid.

Counties with Highest Overdose Death Counts

Cocaine overdose deaths and drug overdose deaths, in general, are higher in several Colorado counties than in others around the state. The following counties each have more than 20 overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents:

  • Bent County
  • Rio Grande County
  • Adams County
  • Baca County
  • Las Animas County
  • Pueblo County
  • Conejos County
  • Huerfano County
  • Costilla County
  • Jackson County
  • Delta County
  • Denver County

Crimes Related to Cocaine Use

Although there aren’t any cocaine crime statistics available for Colorado, crimes related to cocaine use are typically much the same as in other states. A 2004 survey showed that around 17% of prisoners commit crimes to obtain money to buy drugs. This includes stealing cars and robbing homes or people. Furthermore, driving under the influence of cocaine or other stimulants accounted for 31% of U.S. drug enforcement evaluations in 2017.

Trends in Available Treatment Resources in Colorado

Colorado has one of the highest percentages of adults with unmet treatment needs. Statistics gathered in 2018 estimate that around 85% of people addicted to cocaine and other drugs aren’t getting the help they need. Statistics also suggest that around 25% of people who start using cocaine recreationally will become addicted. Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that has powerful physical effects and alters brain chemistry.

Cocaine addiction recovery rates are hard to estimate. A 2008 study estimated that up to 78% of people who try to quit on their own have a relapse. NIDA estimates that seeking professional treatment can improve recovery rates by up to 50%.

Cocaine use is dangerous. Even trying it once can lead to addiction. If you’re struggling with cocaine addiction or use of any substance, reach out to The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Representatives are on hand to help guide you to a treatment plan that can meet your needs. Call us today to start your journey to recovery.

Other Drug Trends in Colorado

Did you know that Colorado is the only state in the country that has a problem with all four of the so-called major intoxicants? Alcohol, cocaine, opioids and marijuana all feature prominently in the state’s drug trends. Consider the following information on Colorado’s drug trends:

  • Opioid Abuse & Overdose Trends: Colorado opioid statistics show that there were 543 opioid overdose deaths in the state in 2018. These included deaths from both prescription opioids and illegal drugs like heroin.
  • Alcoholism Trends: Across the state of Colorado, there are more treatment admissions for alcohol than for any other substance. This has held true since 2009.
  • Marijuana Use Trends: Data shows that marijuana treatment admissions in Colorado have declined since 2014. Despite this fact, over 5,000 people in Colorado sought treatment for marijuana use in 2018, making it one of the top drugs for which people seek treatment in the state.
  • Fentanyl Abuse Statistics: In 2000, only five drug-related deaths in Colorado were attributed to fentanyl use. In 2017, that number increased to 81. Nationwide, there were over 36,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl in 2019, demonstrating just how dangerous this drug is.


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