Colorado on track to exceed 1,800 overdose deaths in 2021

Data Desk

DENVER (KDVR) — The pandemic-era rise in Colorado’s drug overdoses has only continued in 2021.

Colorado’s drug overdose rate spiked 50% from May 2019 to May 2021, trending directly with a nationwide increase. Driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment projects 1,838 this year — the highest total ever, up from 1,477 last year.

The amount of fentanyl-related overdoses has also shot up, from 540 last year to a projected 857 in 2021.

The nationwide flood of the cheaply-produced pain medication means fentanyl-related overdoses now make up half of the state’s drug-related deaths.

In 2018, less than 10% of Colorado’s drug overdoses involved fentanyl. This year, however, nearly half, or 48%, have involved the drug.

Overdoses are a statewide issue — only a half dozen counties have none at all — but they are heavily concentrated in only a few Front Range counties.

Three-quarters of the state’s drug overdoses happen in Denver, El Paso, Adams, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties.

Denver is the state’s county with the highest number of overdoses, with 319 in the 12-month span ending March 2021; El Paso County comes second with 301.

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