Prescription Drugs Abuse

Hundreds of Coloradans are dying each year from drug abuse. However, the drugs behind a growing number of these deaths usually are not being purchased on street corners or from drug dealers — the drugs are most commonly found in household medicine cabinets.

Prescription drugs provide relief to millions of Coloradans every year, but the abuse of these potent and sometimes deadly drugs has become one of the gravest issues facing Coloradans today.

Three times as many people died in 2008 of prescription drug abuse, 562, than died from drunken driving-related accidents, 173. And the problem has grown substantially in recent years, from 298 prescription-drug-related deaths in 2000 to 562 deaths in 2008. For example, 49 percent of the drug-related deaths between 2003 and 2008 in Denver were caused by prescription drugs.

Colorado youth in particular are abusing prescription drugs at an alarming rate. According to statistics from the Colorado Division of Behavioral Health and other state agencies, Coloradans ages 24 and younger comprised 20 percent of all admissions to Colorado drug treatment facilities to treat addictions to opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Coloradans ages 24 and younger comprised 29 percent of all admissions to Colorado drug treatment facilities to treat addictions to stimulants.

Ready access to prescription drugs has fueled this rising trend among youth over the past decade. From OxyCotin to Vicodin, young Coloradans have ready access to potent drugs often inside their own homes. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 82 percent of people across the county reporting prescription-drug abuse said they obtained the drugs from a friend or relative for free.

Trends in young Coloradans’ increasing abuse of prescription drugs track alongside national trends, as documented by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, even as this demographic has reported declining use of methamphetamine and inhalants, such as paint or glue.

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