We all know that substance abuse is a national problem, although Colorado appears to be particularly affected. In fact, a 2019 study concluded that the state ranked:

  1. #9 in the country for the highest rates of drug abuse.
  2. #3 in the country for the highest rates of adults who are in need of drug treatment but are not receiving it.

As you can see from the figures, substance abuse is a serious problem in the state. Furthermore, there are a lot of people suffering who are not getting the treatment that they need. In fact, only 15.7% of residents who need treatment actually receive it.

That being said, let’s look at the 5 most abused drugs in the state:

1) Alcohol

Much like illicit drugs, alcohol actually poses a significant public health risk. Furthermore, it is the most widely abused substance in the state. In certain counties, an alarming 30% of residents engage in unhealthy and destructive drinking.

Keeping that in mind, let’s go over some key statistics:

  1. Alcohol is responsible for most rehab admissions (between 38.4% and 52%).
  2. 7.4% of adults (21 and over) self-reported heavy alcohol use in the past year. However, this figure is low as most research indicates that 1 in 5 (20%) adults drink excessively. This means that the actual figure is nearly three times higher than the self-reported rate.
  3. The state ranks 45th in alcohol-related deaths.
  4. Alcohol-related deaths rose nearly 60% in the years 2005 to 2017. That’s about 20% higher than the national rate.

2). Marijuana

Colorado was famously the first state to legalize recreational cannabis. Although this drug is not generally considered to be dangerous, there is still a significant percentage of the population that struggles with cannabis abuse.

That being said, let’s look a little more closely at cannabis use in the state:

  1. The state ranks second nationwide in monthly cannabis use and over 500,000 residents use the drug at least once a month.
  2. About 19% of rehab admissions were for patients who primarily used cannabis.
  3. The rate of teenage use in the state is 18.35%. This is significantly higher than the national average of 12.86%.
  4. 13.6% of adults use cannabis regularly (33.2% use it daily).
  5. 18% of regular users reported driving while intoxicated on cannabis.

3). Opioids

Much like the rest of the country, the opioid epidemic has devastated Colorado. In fact, fatal opioid deaths in the state have tripled in the years 2000 to 2015.

Additionally, heroin was the third most commonly seized drug in the Denver metro area in 2017 (16.1% of all drug seizures).

Since the heroin epidemic started with the abuse of prescription painkillers, it’s important to understand these statistics:

  1. 25% of Colorado residents have abused prescription painkillers.
  2. 29% of Colorado residents have used painkillers not prescribed to them.
  3. 1 in 7 high school students in Colorado has abused prescription painkillers.
  4. According to the CDC, overdose deaths from prescription painkillers rose from 3.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2015 to 5.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.

4). Methamphetamine

This drug has long been a serious problem in the Northeast and South-Central regions of the state. In fact, meth use has actually grown in the past decade.

Let’s look at the following figures:

  1. Meth arrests in Denver tripled from 2013 to 2017.
  2. Rehab admissions increased from 11.5% in 2012 to 16.2% in 2017.
  3. About 30% of users injected the drug.
  4. This is the most common drug seized in the Denver metro area (35.4% of all drugs seized).

5). Cocaine

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported a steady decline in cocaine abuse in the state over the past five years. However, it still poses a serious public health problem.

Consider the following key statistics:

  1. Over 27% of all drug seizures in the Denver metro area included cocaine.
  2. Cocaine is the second-most commonly listed drug on state death certificates.
  3. Since about 2016, rehab admissions for cocaine addiction have steadily increased. This is especially true for residents from the Northeast and Northwest regions of the state. 
  4. Rehab admissions for cocaine addiction are highest in the 25 to 34 age group. However, in 2016 there was an alarming increase in admissions for patients 17 and under. 

Find Treatment for Substance Abuse in Colorado

As you can see, substance abuse remains a serious issue in the state. Addiction treatment is most effective when done under the care of professionals and in a structured setting. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, rest assured that there are various resources available to help treat this unfortunate disease. No one should have to fight this battle alone! Contact our representative at Rehab Adviser today and start the healing process. 


  1. https://wallethub.com/edu/drug-use-by-state/35150/#methodology
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHsaeSpecificStates2017B/NSDUHsaeColorado2017.pdf
  3. https://scorecard.commonwealthfund.org/state/colorado/
  4. https://www.cpr.org/2019/06/12/colorado-has-more-alcohol-deaths-than-nearly-every-other-state/
  5. https://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2018-SB13-283_Rpt.pdf
  6. https://gazette.com/news/mixed-findings-on-colorado-marijuana-traffic-deaths/article_ec6a8f4c-a722-11e8-9c81-17b5312abb33.html
  7. https://www.drugabuse.gov/node/pdf/21949/colorado-opioid-summary
  8. https://www.tchd.org/DocumentCenter/View/5279/MCH_PregSubstanceUse2019-81419
  9. https://www.coloradohealthinstitute.org/research/death-drugs
  10. https://coag.gov/sites/default/files/contentuploads/oce/Substance_Abuse_SA/SATF-reports/12th_annual_substance_abuse_task_force_report_2017_final.pdf
  11. https://www.cpr.org/2019/08/12/meth-has-come-back-with-a-vengeance-in-colorado/
  12. https://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/Opioid-Epidemic-Worsens-and-Meth-Makes-a-Comeback-in-Colorado.html
  13. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs/opioid-crisis-colorado-office-behavioral-healths-role-research-and-resources
  14. https://ndews.umd.edu/sites/ndews.umd.edu/files/SCS-Report-2018-Denver-FINAL.pdf

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