Colorado Is Seeing a Rise in Overdose Deaths Related to Meth

Colorado City

Colorado drug overdose deaths have tripled over the last twenty years with 2017 having the highest amount. In 2017 more Coloradans died from drug overdose deaths than car accidents according to data released from the State Health Department. Provisional numbers for 2017 show that there were 959 drug overdose deaths in Colorado, 280 of those deaths involved methamphetamine.

Over the past three years, there has a dramatic increase in the number of deaths that involved meth. From 139 in 2015, 196 in 2016 and 280 in 2017. According to data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for the first time in ten years, there have been more overdose deaths from meth in Colorado than heroin.

Meth crystal

Other states such as Ohio have also seen an alarming rise in the number of deaths related to meth use. The number of deaths in Ohio related to methamphetamine more than doubled in the past year going from 233 in 2016 up to 526 in 2017. According to Harm Reduction Ohio, a major contributing factor in the increased amount of deaths is fentanyl. Police reports regarding the analysis of confiscated methamphetamine have shown an increased amount of supplies laced with fentanyl and the even deadlier synthetic opioid carfentanil.

With all of the attention that is being placed on addressing the opioid crisis the increasing problem with meth is often overlooked. According to a recent article from Colorado Public Radio (CPR) rates for meth possession arrests in Denver have tripled in 2017 compared to 2013. Over the past decade deaths related to meth use have been on a steady incline. Meth use speeds up the heart rate and can sometimes result in a heart attack or stroke.

With the restrictions that were set in place for the purchase of cold medications that are used to make meth, the state has seen a drop in the amount of local meth lab busts. The number of meth labs seized in Colorado in 2002 was 401, that number dropped to just two in 2017. Although this has been a step in the right direction in terms of community safety, the demand for the drug has not decreased. According to the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, most of the meth supply in Colorado is now coming from Mexican Drug Cartels. The cartels can cook larger quantities of the drug in their super labs which have resulted in making meth more potent and cheaper for the consumer.

The combination of a lower price point and a higher purity is part of the reason for the increase in deaths related to the drug. Meth is an extremely addictive drug that becomes very difficult to quit. Because of this, there has been a lot of effort put into the prevention of meth use through the Colorado Meth Project. This project provides resources to schools and aims to educate youth about the dangers and realities of meth use.

It is time that we begin to stop looking at the current crisis we are facing as a nation and a state as an “opioid problem” but rather a whole addiction problem.




After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.