Colorado drug overdoses at all-time high; rates exceed suicide, firearms injury

Data Desk

DENVER (KDVR) — Drug overdose deaths have begun to eclipse other leading categories of Colorado’s fatality causes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data on the pandemic’s drug abuse totals. Between April 2020 and April 2021, the United States had 100,306 drug overdose deaths – the highest on record and the first time the country has seen over 100,000 deaths in a 12-month period.

In Colorado, the rate of drug overdoses has surpassed that of the most recent death rates for lung cancer, suicide and firearms injury, among others.

The U.S. and Colorado rates of drug overdose deaths have been climbing since the summer of 2019. The pandemic sharply accelerated the trend – rates rose 50% from February 2020 to April 2021.

There were 1,655 drug overdose deaths from April 2020 through April this year. For the five years prior to the 2020 spike, Colorado’s drug overdose deaths have averaged below 1,000 per year.

This puts drug overdoses high on the list of Colorado’s causes of death.

The rate of drug overdoses in Colorado was 28 per 100,000 people this year. According to Colorado health department data, the annual death rate for lung cancer was 25.4, suicide was 21.4, injury by firearm was 15.3 and breast cancer was 11.4.

Only cancer, heart and cardiovascular disease, COVID-19, lower respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and alcohol-induced deaths had higher fatality rates.

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