Methamphetamine Drives Ever-Climbing Overdose Death Numbers In Colorado

Colorado's drug overdose epidemic is showing no signs of letting up, according to new provisional data released by the state health department. And while the state documented record numbers in 2017 for deaths involving opioids, the biggest driver of the overall spike the last couple of years is not opioids, but methamphetamine.

A record total of 959 people died from overdoses in 2017. That's 47 people more than the previous year.

The state’s vital statistics program manager Kirk Bol says overdose deaths have almost tripled since the state began tracking them almost two decades ago. "This indeed is the highest number and highest rate of drug overdose deaths we've seen thus far,” he said.

"There's no sign of the problem abating, through 2017 at least," Bol said.

Methamphetamine claimed 280 lives, up sharply from 196 the year before, and 139 in 2015. Fentanyl deaths also shot up 50 percent, to 75.

Opioids caused more than half the deaths, with prescription painkillers involved in 37 percent of the fatalities. Heroin accounted for about a fifth of the total, though the number and rate are down slightly from the prior year.