Fentanyl deaths soar in Colorado as lawmakers scramble to act
Colorado's death rate associated with fentanyl is climbing faster than just about any other state in the nation, a new analysis shows.
Driving the news: The latest figures raise concerns about the deadly drug's prevalence in the community, as evidenced by the five people who died from apparent overdoses while ingesting cocaine at a Commerce City apartment Sunday.
- "No drug is safe. Because any drug could literally have fentanyl in it without the user knowing," 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason said, per the Denver Post.
By the numbers: Overdose deaths in Colorado from fentanyl went from five in 2000 to 540 in 2020, state figures show.
- Since 2016, the fentanyl overdose death rate spiked to more than 9 out of every 100,000 people, a recent Colorado Health Institute study found.
- Preliminary 2021 data shows fatal overdoses at 767 and possibly exceeding 800, depending on how they are categorized, at least a 42% increase over 2020.
The big picture: Colorado's uptick ranked second in the country from 2019 to 2021, according to a report published this month from the nonprofit Families against Fentanyl.
- Denver police chief Paul Pazen also is concerned it's leading to a spike in narcotic-related killings. The rate went from four in 2020 to 15 in 2021, he said at a recent briefing.
What's next: Colorado lawmakers and state Attorney General Phil Weiser are advocating for legislation to increase penalties for people who knowingly sell drugs laced with fentanyl, increasing the likelihood of accidental overdoses.
- The bill is expected to debut in the coming days.
What you can do: Denver is now distributing free fentanyl test strips and the opiate overdose reversal drug Naloxone to residents who ask.
- To obtain the reversal drug, which can counter reduced breathing after an overdose, residents must watch a short video on how to administer it.
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