Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a statewide organization of police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys, released a report June 22 on the severity of the opioid epidemic in Colorado. In a news conference held at the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office in Centennial, District Attorney George Brauchler, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, and Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz offered recommendations for evidence-based prevention efforts they said should serve as a key component of our state’s response to this crisis.
“Stopping the Opioid Crisis Begins at Home” highlights research that finds that individuals who experience several Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), including parental substance abuse, are significantly more likely to misuse or become addicted to opioids later in life. For example, one study found that children who experienced more than four childhood traumas were three times more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers, and five times more likely to engage in injection drug use in adulthood compared to their peers who did not experience any traumas.
The report found that 62 percent of adults in Colorado had experienced at least one ACE during childhood, and 15 percent reported experiencing four or more ACEs as a child. That’s why law enforcement leaders believe prevention efforts targeted at reducing ACEs are necessary for reducing opioid abuse.
“We’re taking measures to address this crisis through law enforcement and action in the courts,” Brauchler said. “It’s prevention though – starting in early childhood – that is the missing piece of the puzzle.”
The report also underscores the role of home visiting programs – voluntary programs in which nurses or other trained professionals coach at-risk parents during pregnancy or during the early years of a child’s life – in reducing ACEs.
“In the short term, these programs can help addicted parents achieve sobriety by connecting them with treatment,” said Smith. “Long-term, home visiting is proven to prevent children’s exposure to ACEs. That, in turn, can reduce the likelihood of opioid abuse later in life. Home visiting can turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle.”
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