Drug Treatment and Rehab in Denver, Colorado

Drug Strategies

Substance abuse generates an array of costly problems for Denver residents, businesses and government. Colorado ranks second among the 50 states in the relative severity of its alcohol and drug abuse problems. In Denver, by many measures, substance abuse and addiction problems are considerably more severe than in the nation as a whole.

· Rates of binge drinking and chronic drinking are about 40 percent higher among Denver adults than among adults nationwide (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

· Denver residents are hospitalized for alcohol-related illnesses at nearly twice the national rate (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment).

· Drug-related hospital emergencies occur in Denver at 2½ times the national rate (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

· Denver’s alcohol and drug-related death rate is more than 50 percent higher than the national average (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and National Center for Health Statistics).

· Drug-related AIDS cases are diagnosed in Denver at twice the national rate (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

· Denver’s crime rate is 15 percent higher than the national average, even after having fallen sharply in the late 1990s (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

· Denver arrests and imprisons drug offenders at more than twice the rate nationwide (Colorado Office of the State Court Administrator; Colorado Division of Criminal Justice; and Bureau Justice Statistics).

· Substance abuse costs Denver residents, businesses and government at least $1.5 billion a year—in addition to the incalculable toll in human suffering (National Institute on Drug Abuse & National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).

Fortunately, Denver’s resilient economy and track record of sound fiscal management mean that the city can bring to bear a wealth of human and economic resources to address substance abuse. To target those resources, city leaders are charting a promising strategy that emphasizes significant new investments in prevention and treatment. The state government has an obvious stake in the well-being of its capital city, and a major role to play. The residents of Denver and the rest of Colorado would benefit tremendously if state lawmakers moved policy and funding priorities toward prevention and treatment. Among the many challenges Denver faces in its efforts to reduce substance abuse, none is more crucial than closing the city’s treatment gap. Drug Strategies estimates that between 45,000 and 60,000 Denver residents need treatment for substance abuse but that only 7,000 of them, at most, actually receive treatment in any given year. A large and growing body of scientific research attests to treatment’s effectiveness in reducing substance abuse and its associated harms. Moreover, the benefits of treatment far exceed the costs. A landmark 1994 study in California found that every dollar invested in treatment saved taxpayers seven dollars in future costs. City leaders should move quickly to undertake a comprehensive household survey of Denver residents on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The information derived will inform policy planning and serve as a baseline for measuring the future impact of Denver’s new strategies to reduce substance abuse.

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