Drugs on a cell phone

Heroin and opioid-related deaths and overdoses have skyrocketed over the past several years in the state of Colorado, and those combating drug abuse and death contribute the deaths to both doctors and an ignorant public.

Since 1999 heroin-related deaths in the Centennial State have quadrupled. The state saw 259 opioid-related deaths in 2015 and that number had climbed to 442 the very next year. State officials are contributing some of the blame to doctors who overzealously prescribe opioid painkillers that can get a person hooked in the first place and a public that doesn’t want to believe that their beautiful state is being rocked with heroin problems that cover a wide variety of citizens.

“It’s terrifying to me,” says Colorado resident Rebecca Waechter, who herself survived a heroin overdose nine years ago. “It is next door. You don’t need to travel anywhere to get it. It is everywhere. And it’s cheap and readily accessible. And people aren’t aware.”

Public officials like Fort Collins Police Services Lt. David Pearson agrees with Waechter’s sentiments and is concerned with the infiltration of heroin not only in crime-riddled areas, but also into typical suburban life. “In the past, you had a picture in your mind of who a heroin addict was,” said Pearson. “Now we’re getting teenage children that are doing it. You’re the seeing the demographics of the heroin abuse change.

Larimer Country where Pearson works and Waechter lives are being particularly hard hit by the opioid Fentanyl which can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. In 2016 Larimer Country saw 9 heroin-related deaths, 8 Fentanyl-related deaths, and 14 other prescription opioid related deaths.

Colorado’s rising numbers run lock-step with the national trend of rising heroin and opioid-related deaths. In 2015 a record 33,000 Americans died of opioid-related reasons and that number continues to climb.

The trend has become enough of a problem that Washington is now attempting to combat it as well. Democratic lawmakers in the Capitol are introducing legislation that would put a small fee on opioid prescriptions to help with education and to combat opioid dependence. Lawmakers from states that are being hit particularly hard by the epidemic such as Connecticut are sponsoring the legislation.

As the opioid problem becomes more apparent, those who have been affected by opioids and the general public are hoping for anything to help stem the damage before the numbers continue to rise.