Local substance abuse experts release Denver drug trends report: Alcohol and marijuana rank highest in treatment admissions

Local substance abuse experts release Denver drug trends report: Alcohol and marijuana rank highest in treatment admissions

Findings from the eighth Proceedings of the Denver Epidemiology Work Group Report show the latest substance abuse trends for the City and County of Denver and metro area.  Denver Epidemiology Work Group (DEWG) members examine data from dozens of local and national systems to create this semi-annual report.

The report provides valuable insight to the Denver Office of Drug Strategy (DODS), Denver Drug Strategy Commission, service providers and public health officials. This research is part of DODS’ strategic plan goals to leverage data to inform decision-making and policy development for current and emerging substance abuse issues.

Among the report’s notable findings:  


  • Alcohol remains the most used and abused drug in our community.
  • Alcohol is the perceived easiest drug to access by youth, according to 2009 local data and the 2011 statewide data.
  • Alcohol is the most frequently used drug among youth and adults.


  • Marijuana is second to alcohol for the most commonly used drug in Denver, and use is higher than the national average. 
  • In 2010, excluding alcohol, marijuana ranked first in treatment admissions and increased to its highest proportion of all treatment admissions for the previous seven  years.
  • Twenty percent of drug-related emergency department admissions in Denver were attributed to marijuana use, compared to 18% for cocaine and less than 8% for heroin.
Prescription opioid
  • Prescription opioid use has increased in recent years, demonstrated by increases in treatment and hospital admissions. 
  • Denver is seeing increases in opioid-related deaths, particularly in combination with alcohol and other drugs.
  • Evidence of subtle changes in the population using opioids, with increases in users ages 34 and younger.
  • There is a perception that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs because they are sanctioned and tested, when they are actually extremely addictive and potentially deadly.

  • Heroin accounts for 23% of drug related deaths in Denver. 
  • Many heroin-related deaths involve other drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, prescription opioids and benzodiazepines. 
  • Heroin treatment admission counselors report seeing heroin users that started using prescription opioids, but then switched to using heroin.
  • Experts report that heroin is often cheaper than prescription opioids. 

“The information gathered from this report allows us to not only identify emerging substance use trends, but also gauge how we can effectively address and prevent substance abuse by collaborating with our community partners,” Vanessa Fenley, Director of the Denver Office of Drug Strategy said.  

To download the full report, visit www.DenverGov.org/Drug_Strategies

About the Denver Epidemiology Work Group
The Denver Epidemiology Work Group (DEWG) was established by the Denver Drug Strategy Commission and Denver Office of Drug Strategy. The committee examines and shares comprehensive local data, providing ongoing community-level surveillance of substance use in the City and County of Denver and the Denver metro area. The DEWG is modeled after the National Institute on Drug Abuse‘s Community Epidemiology Work Group.

Posted on Jul 25 2012 (Archive on Sep 23 2012)
Posted by kpellegrin  Contributed by kpellegrin