Overdose deaths from prescription opioids in Colorado likely dropped last year to their lowest level in six years, but the state also saw a possibly connected increase in heroin and cocaine overdoses, according to preliminary numbers from Colorado’s Health Department.
Overall, the total number of opiate deaths — meaning deaths from both prescription painkillers like fentanyl or from illegal opiates like heroin — fell by about 6 percent, from 472 deaths in 2015 to 442 deaths in 2016. That marked a rare yearly downturn in opiate deaths, which have been climbing year-over-year in Colorado since at least 2000, with a couple other exceptions.
The biggest gains were made in reducing the number of deaths from traditional opioid painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, which are sometimes called “natural” prescription opioids. Those deaths declined in 2016 by roughly 27 percent, from 259 to 188, according to the preliminary numbers.