Southern Colorado Counties Suffer From Addiction Treatment Scarcity and Rising Misuse Trends

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Updated 08/04/2022

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If you are living in Colorado, you might know that the rising misuse of prescription and illegal drugs has led to a crisis situation in Costilla and Huerfano counties in southern Colorado. How has the lack of treatment facilities played into this crisis, and what is being done to address the issue? Where can residents of Colorado turn for addiction treatment?

The Addiction Crisis in Southern Colorado

According to the Colorado Health Institute, “overdose deaths in Colorado are rising, driven by an increase in opioid-related deaths.” In recent years, the opioid crisis has become particularly severe. It is connected to the use of opioids as prescription pain medications, which can lead to prescription drug misuse. Others in the home could access these addictive substances, and those who use them for pain could become addicted and then turn to other opioid drugs such as heroin. Poisoning due to pharmaceutical drug use is particularly high, as are ER visits due to heroin.

Since 1999, there has been a 152 percent increase in the use of all drugs, but the rise has been particularly acute when you look at opioid use. This has expanded by a mind-boggling 325 percent. Nearly three percent of people in the state used drugs in the last year. According to the Colorado government, “in nearly every year for the last 15 years, Colorado’s drug overdose rate was significantly higher than the national rate and opioid-related overdoses represent a large portion of those deaths.”

Who is affected by this crisis? While those who are suffering from opioid use range from teens to seniors, the majority are males between the ages of 26 and 34. The rates of drug use are highest in non-Hispanic white Coloradans.

Why Are Costilla and Huerfano Counties Affected? 

When it comes to opioids, access and addiction go hand in hand. People obtain prescription opioids through legal means; however, they may acquire too many prescriptions and use these to fuel a substance use disorder.

The Colorado government tracks the statistics of how many prescriptions are sent out and how many people receive prescriptions. Substance overprescription can lead to addiction. If medical care providers are too liberal in handing out prescriptions, this can lead to problems, since people could overuse the drugs, the excess supply of drugs could make it onto the marketplace, or others in the family such as teens could take the drugs. According to the government of Colorado, “every year in Costilla County, there were enough opioid prescriptions for every resident to have at least one prescription.” Huerfano County also has high prescription rates of opioid and benzodiazepine drugs. These higher prescription rates both point to and lead to problems. The CDC states that there is a higher risk of overdose in areas where high doses of these drugs are prescribed by multiple providers, where more prescriptions are written for longer-duration opioids, and where overlapping prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines exist.

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There are other implications to this drug crisis as well. In counties that are particularly affected, the police, fire, and medical services are overwhelmed. So are child protective services and coroners. Families and communities feel the increased burden of caring for people who have overdosed or who are unable to function due to their dependence on substance use.

How Has the Lack of Addiction Treatment Impacted Southern Colorado?

When you need treatment for substance use disorder, you need it right away — not a year or two in the future. Unfortunately, according to the Colorado Health Institute, just over 15 percent of those who need treatment receive it.

Why is this gap so large? The largest gaps are connected to a workforce that is unable to tackle the challenge of supporting those with addiction. Medication-assisted treatment is most successful at treating addiction and moving people from dependence on substances into recovery. This recovery is also supported by other means such as counseling. It is effective at preventing relapse for many, and it is more effective than counseling alone.

However, there is often inadequate knowledge about this type of treatment, and lack of other services such as counseling, and even nursing support. Without adequate staff to run programs, there are few programs for people to access. Ten counties in Colorado including Costilla and Huerfano Counties have no treatment centers in the area.

Ironically, while many people see substance use treatment as a cost, it is usually a savings when it comes to health care. Seeking treatment cost about 12 times less than maintaining chronic substance misuse.

Where to Turn for Addiction Treatment in Colorado

When you are looking for addiction treatment options in Colorado, look for recovery programs that offer the following:

  • Medical assistance reducing your dependence on drugs and alcohol
  • A wide variety of programs such as inpatient and outpatient programs. Intensive inpatient and outpatient programs allow you to spend your time focusing on recovery with counseling and other alternative therapies.
  • Gradual movement into aftercare and part-time programs, so that you can maintain your support system while transitioning back to home and work.
  • Alternative therapies, so that you can enjoy art, meditation, recreation, and other therapies that keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally fit while giving you a new focus.
  • Support for those with a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders, so that you can ensure that you address mental health or other challenges to help you move into recovery.
  • Sober housing options, so that you can ensure that you do not return to a living situation that may not support your recovery.

The Recovery Village Palmer Lake offers a variety of options to fit your needs. When you are looking for Colorado-based recovery programs, we can help you find the program that best suits you.

At The Recovery Village Palmer Lake, we are here to help you move from substance use to recovery. Are you looking for Colorado addiction treatment resources? Talk with us today about our many programs and learn about admissionsContact us now. We can help.

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