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The rise and fall of prescription drug abuse in Colorado

Prescription drug abuse is not a new thing in Colorado. In fact, according to the Denver Post, the state has one of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the nation. Fortunately, deaths from opioid overdoses have gone down in 2016, the preliminary reports say.

Many people blame doctors for the epidemic, claiming that the over-prescription of addictive painkillers may be one of the primary causes. However, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention notes that more than half of the people who abuse these drugs get them for free from a friend or family member. About 17 percent get them from a doctor's prescription. Just over 4 percent get their drugs from a dealer or a stranger.

Legislative changes

Although the initial ability to access these drugs has fueled the rise in substance abuse, in the past few years, changes in the law have made it more difficult for people to get these painkillers legitimately. There are now better disposal methods for people who have unused medications that they do not need. The state has also launched a campaign for monitoring the prescription of addictive painkillers.

Heroin use

These changes have come too late for some people, and many are now at risk of losing their way of life. Heroin use has increased as opiate users have begun seeking new ways to deal with their addiction. Overdose deaths in the state have increased by 23 percent in 2016.

Access to treatment

The authorities often see prescription drug use as a straightforward illegal act, and through strict law enforcement, they seek to protect the public from the ill effects that may occur. However, treatment professionals often have a much different philosophy. They understand that for those who suffer from addiction, recovering from prescription drug abuse may be much more difficult than a simple choice not to take a medication anymore.

In Colorado, an attorney or probation officer may be able to make referrals to drug court for some people who find themselves facing legal issues because of prescription drug abuse. This system mandates treatment programs rather than prison for offenders.

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