|Though AMC’s hit drug and crime drama Breaking Bad may be fictional, large-scale drug manufacturing and trafficking is a reality for many states across the country, including Colorado, where illegal and prescription drug abuse has become a growing problem.
Recently in Colorado, eight individuals — some of which are suspected to be high-ranking members of a motorcycle gang — were indicted on accusations they ran an elaborate drug trafficking ring in the Denver area.
The indictments, announced at the end of January by Colorado Attorney General’s Office, follow a nearly five-month long investigation, code-named “Operation Tick and Flea Collar.”
The operation focused on targeting the group suspected of being in violation of the Colorado Organized Crime and Control Act because of their alleged involvement in trafficking “large quantities” of methamphetamine, in addition to firearm possession violations, money laundering and conspiracy, the office said.
However, methamphetamine isn’t the only problem Colorado and other states have on their hands.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fatal heroin overdoses are on the rise nationally, increasing by 39% between 2012 and 2013, and Colorado is no exception. The number of heroin overdose deaths in Colorado mirrored CDC statistics, rising from 91 people in 2012 to 118 people in 2013, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
It’s all part of what’s being called an “opioid epidemic.”
Potent prescription painkillers and opioids such as Percocet, Oxycontin, Vicodin and others are commonly abused. The vicious cycle of illegal and prescription drug abuse continues as access to pain pills becomes more restrictive, causing some to turn to heroin, a powerful, illegal opioid.
Deaths related to illegal and prescription drug use isn’t the only cause for concern. Drug abuse has been known to effect fertility in both men and women, which in turn may also affect birth rates.
While women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24, opioid use can significantly decrease their ability to conceive, and has been known to decrease sperm count in men, according to the American Pregnancy Association. For female opioid users who do manage to conceive, there is an increased risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications.