Why Addiction is Prevalent in Colorado Colorado is synonymous with an outdoorsy lifestyle, vitality and health. The state is tied to wildlife and the great outdoors, so it’s difficult to think that within the mountains lurk serious drug and alcohol problems. Even at The River Source, we were surprised to see how many patients of ours come from Colorado. Marijuana is the most commonly cited drug, and for the 2007-2008 period, Colorado was among the top ten states in several drug categories. Why, beneath the outdoorsy, vibrant culture of Colorado, are there so many drug problems? The first theory is the location of Colorado. The state borders many regions, and these surrounding states have large drug problems too. For example, New Mexico is where many drugs enter the U.S. from Mexico, and some of these drugs are then moved through Colorado. There are also large cities like Denver and Boulder where drug problems exist, as well as plenty of remote locations where large parties and raves can be held. But there’s an even deeper problem that many of our Colorado patients cite as being a root cause of drug and alcohol abuse. Colorado is a liberalized state. They have legalized the recreational use of marijuana shortly after the 2012 election, but residents agree that marijuana was pretty much legalized before then. The laidback attitude of residents and law officials has allowed the freedom for residents to smoke marijuana and drink openly. This may not affect everyone, but for our patients, this laissez-faire environment towards drugs and alcohol has led them down a path of abuse.
How Does Colorado Compare to Other States?Compared to other states, Colorado has a very large drug and alcohol problem, and is one of the top ten states for drug abuse. One of the latest surveys conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 11.72 residents reported using illicit drugs in the past month; the national average was 8.02 percent. Additionally, 4.57 percent of residents reported using marijuana in the past month; the national average was 3.58. In 2007, 747 people died of drug-related deaths. Drug-related deaths account for 15.4 per 100,000 people in Colorado, which exceeds the national rate of 12.7 per 100,000. Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the state; although with the recent legalization, we can no longer cite marijuana as being “illegal.” In the past years, however, following marijuana in popularity are stimulants, cocaine, heroin and other opiates. And, Colorado joins its bordering states of New Mexico and Utah in having more drug-related deaths than motor vehicle deaths.
A Close Look at the NumbersBelow is the percentage of the Colorado population using and/or abusing drugs.
|Illicit Drugs||Age 18+|
|Past Month Illicit Drug Use 1||10.89%|
|Past Year Marijuana Use||12.63%|
|Past Month Marijuana Use||8.25%|
|Past Month Use of Illicit Drugs other than Marijuana 1||4.44%|
|Past Year Cocaine Use||3.27%|
|Past Year Nonmedical Pain Reliever Use||5.29%|
|Past Month Alcohol Use||64.42%|
|Past Month Binge Alcohol Use 2||27.76%|
|Past Year Dependence, Abuse & Treatment||Age 18+|
|Illicit Drug Dependence 1||2.05%|
|Illicit Drug Dependence or Abuse||3.01%|
|Alcohol Dependence or Abuse||9.88%|
|Alcohol or Illicit Drug Dependence or Abuse 1||11.63%|
|Needing but not Receiving Treatment for Illicit Drug Use 1, 3||2.72%|
|Needing but not Receiving Treatment for Alcohol Use 3||9.53%|
|Serious Psychological Distress||11.21%|