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Methamphetamine use and arrests rise sharply in Colorado

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2020 | Drug Possession |

While addiction rates and deaths involving opioids have received the most attention in recent years, methamphetamine has made a sharp comeback in Colorado and the rest of the U.S. over the past decade.

One study shows a nearly 130% increase in meth use from 2014 to 2019 across the country. Denver police say arrests over meth possession spiked in 2018 at 1,468, a 217% increase since 2014. Police say meth arrests now outnumber those for cocaine and heroin combined.

Low cost and availability lead to meth resurgence

Denver police report meth use is getting worse in the downtown area. They say one gram of the manufactured drug costs only $20, which is about what regular users go through in a day. But, despite the rise in usage in the Centennial State, Colorado does not make the top 10 for meth use, which includes:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Iowa
  3. Washington
  4. Kentucky
  5. Minnesota
  6. New Mexico
  7. Alaska
  8. Montana
  9. Missouri
  10. Idaho

Overdose deaths also rise

Deaths caused by overdoses from heroin and methamphetamine remained relatively equal until 2017 when meth fatalities overtook those resulting from heroin overdoses. Deaths for each drug remained under 100 until 2013 when a sharp rise began.

In 2013, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recorded 118 deaths from heroin overdoses and 96 from meth. However, in 2018, the department reported a surge of 318 meth fatalities, overtaking a still disturbing 229 heroin overdoses that same year.

Health officials look for answers

The CDPHE says opioids, such as fentanyl, heroin and prescription drugs still cause more deaths in Colorado than meth. But, the agency says some heroin users are switching to meth. Health officials say homelessness issues account for part of the surge in meth possession arrests.

Former users say meth use also results in an increase in petty crimes, including theft. One user said addiction to meth can result in a combination of many problems, such as crime, homelessness, drug addiction and mental health issues.