Snorting cocaine powder with rolled banknote

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 possession of small amounts of fewer than four grams of illicit drugs (including cocaine) from a felony to a misdemeanor. However, upon closer inspection, some alarming trends are also emerging — some of which began taking shape in the early 2000s.

In 2019, news headlines revealed that Colorado ranks ninth for the highest drug use in the United States. Even more importantly, drug-related deaths are consistently on the rise. 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 Over the Years

How does Colorado’s cocaine use compare with cocaine use in America? In 2016, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a survey to investigate cocaine use statistics across the country. The results revealed little to no change nationwide in cocaine use among people age 12 or older.

Results showed that roughly 1.9 million people used cocaine in the United States in 2016. That represents around 0.7% of the population, and that figure is right around where it had been for several years. The survey also revealed that there were an estimated 125,000 current cocaine users in Colorado ages 12 or older. Illicit drug use in general among Colorado residents came in at 17.83% of the population.

Compared to the nation as a whole and other states, Colorado’s drug use is relatively high. A WalletHub study found that Colorado has the fourth-largest percentage of adult drug users in the country. In 2019, Colorado’s cocaine use and use of other drugs and alcohol placed it into the number-nine slot among the states with the highest drug use levels.

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.

There are also several methods gangs and organized crime groups have for distributing cocaine and other drugs in urban and suburban areas. Because of the state’s close 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

According to recent research from WalletHub, Colorado has the fourth-highest percentage of adult drug users in the country. SAMHSA’s 2016 survey revealed that 1.98% of Colorado adults age 26 or older used cocaine within the past year. Nationwide statistics for the same age group reveal that around 3.8% of adults use cocaine.

Cocaine Statistics in Teens/Young Adults

How many teens use cocaine? Overall, Colorado teenagers in grades nine through 12 are relatively on par with their peers across the country when it comes to cocaine use. Roughly 5% of teens in Colorado and in the United States overall used cocaine, according to 2017 statistics. Those same figures reveal that 5% of females used cocaine in Colorado, while only 3% of females across the United States did.

Cocaine use in college-aged young adults appears higher than use among high school students and younger teens in Colorado. A 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that around 1.9% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 used cocaine in the past year across the nation. The same report noted that 5.6% of young adults ages 18 to 25 used cocaine nationwide.

Cocaine Abuse in Seniors

There aren’t any statistics to demonstrate how Colorado’s seniors are faring, but nationwide, there’s a growing trend of cocaine use in older patients. SAMHSA noted that around 4,300 older adults reported using the substance for an average of one day per month each year.

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 cocaine overdoses per year has grown over the last 20 years. According to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were around 3,822 cocaine overdoses in the United States in 1999. That number spiked to 13,942 in 2017. Researchers hypothesize that the rise in using cocaine and opioids together plays a role in the dramatic rise in cocaine overdose statistics. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health also supports the claim that opioids play a role in driving recent cocaine-related deaths.

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

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 get enough money to buy drugs. This includes stealing cars and robbing homes or people. 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 show that the cocaine addiction rate is around 25% among people who start using the substance recreationally. It’s a very 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. The NIDA estimates that seeking professional treatment can improve recovery rates by up to 50%.

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. Statistics reveal Colorado’s drug trends among substances other than cocaine as well. Consider the change in the treatment admissions between 2013 and 2017 for the following:

  • Prescription Drug Abuse: In 2013, 2,282 people were admitted for treatment. In 2017, that number fell 2.8% to 2,219.
  • Opioid Abuse & Overdose Trends: Colorado opioid statistics show an overdose death rate of approximately 10 in every 100,000 people. That’s below the national average of 14 in every 100,000. In 2013, 2,282 people were admitted for prescription opioid addiction treatment. In 2017, that number dropped 2.8% to 2,219.
  • Alcoholism Trends: Alcohol has been the number-one substance that Coloradoans seek treatment for since 2009. Around 13,278 people entered treatment for alcohol dependence in 2013. More than 14,000 sought treatment in 2017 — an increase of roughly 8%.
  • Marijuana Use Trends: Treatment for Marijuana use has declined recently. While 6,069 people sought treatment in 2013, only 5,665 entered treatment in 2017.
  • Fentanyl Abuse Statistics: In 2000, only five deaths were attributed to fentanyl use. In 2017, that number went up to 81. Nationwide, there were more than 28,000 fatal fentanyl overdoses in 2017. This number underscores how dangerous this synthetic opioid is.

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.

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SAMHSA. “Table 21: Colorado.” Accessed October 6, 2019.

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