"Denver Needs Assessment on Opioid Use," a new report from Denver Public Health and Environment, is filled with revelations about the scope of a growing problem in the Mile High City. And plenty of them qualify as genuinely startling.
One reason the report feels more trenchant than many previous attempts to grapple with the issue is the input of actual opioid users. Thirty individuals were interviewed as part of the analysis, and while they skewed Caucasian and male (most identified as white, and 23 of the subjects were men), they represented an appropriately wide age range (twenty to sixty) and included users of multiple substances — although everyone who took part was injecting heroin.
Here are the facts and observations that stood out most to us, illustrated with graphics from the report, followed by the authors' recommendations and the document link.
In 2016, at least five clients of the Harm Reduction Action Center, Colorado's largest syringe exchange program, died of overdoses. But during a two-week period in January 2017, six HRAC clients lost their lives under the same circumstances.
Number 2: The OD-death count could easily have been higher
The increasing availability of Narcan, the commercial name for Naloxone, a substance that can reverse the effects of an overdose, has been a lifesaver in Denver. In 2016, the Harm Reduction Action Center reported that 187 client overdoses were reversed. That number rose substantially the following year. During the first ten months of 2017, overdose reversals were conducted for 234 HRAC clients.
Number 3: The 21st-century overdose death count in Colorado is well into five figures
From 2000 to 2015, the number of Coloradans to die of drug overdoses was 10,552, and it's continued to rise since then. Moreover, opioid-related overdoses tripled during that same period.
In 2016, the Denver coroner's office reported 173 overdose casualties, with 103 involving opioids and fifty of them connected to heroin. The final total for last year is worse: 201 overdose fatalities, of which 110 had a tie to opioids.