DENVER (AP) — Some states, including Colorado, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what's happening in Colorado:
An estimated 5.1 percent of the state's population abused painkillers in 2012, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That puts Colorado among the top states for pill abuse. Patrick Fox, deputy director for clinical services of the Office of Behavioral Health in Colorado Department of Human Services, says the state's heroin problem is part of a bigger problem of opiate abuse, including prescription drugs. Colorado is one of seven states participating in a National Governors Association initiative to fight prescription drug abuse and has enlisted the help of medical and nursing groups, hospitals, the University of Colorado's pharmacy school and pharmaceutical chains. Fox acknowledges that the crackdown on pill abuse has contributed to a rise in heroin use.
Heroin deaths more than doubled from 37 in 2000 to 91 in 2012, the latest statistics available. During the same time, cocaine deaths dropped from 84 to 62, after reaching a peak of 172 in 2006. The number of heroin deaths among people ages 20 to 34 more than tripled. The 25 to 34-year-old group accounted for about a third of the heroin deaths in 2012— 31.
In 2012, the problem also grew among 15 to 19-year-olds. While six teens died in the previous 12 years, five teen boys died of heroin overdoses alone in 2012.
White people accounted for 81 percent of heroin deaths in 2012.
The number of people seeking treatment for heroin nearly tripled in the last decade. The number of people admitted to state drug treatment programs primarily for heroin abuse rose from 1,643 in 1993 to 4,556 in 2013, the latest year statistics are available. The biggest growth came in the state's northeastern corner, where admissions grew by more than 16 times from 32 to 524.
A new law passed last year provides immunity to people who administer overdose drugs to anyone believed to be suffering an opiate-related overdose. The powerful drugs can stop an opiate overdose by "freezing" the brain's receptors for opiates such as heroin or OxyContin.