A new report by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center shows that opioid abuse in the state is following the same rising trends as the rest of the nation, but isn’t seeing the skyrocketing rates of Appalachia and New England.
Senior Researcher Rodney Wambeam said most of Wyoming’s abuse is by young adults between 18 and 25. But all age groups—no matter their gender or race—are susceptible to addiction.
“Because you have this stereotype of our first responders going into a room and there’s syringes laying around and someone has overdosed,” he said. “And first responders definitely tell us that happens but they also tell us they go to a nursing home or somewhere where an elderly person has put on multiple fentanyl patches instead of just one.”
Wambeam said Wyoming is still prescribing more opioids than the national average. Uinta County prescribes the most—more than the number of people there—but that’s because the state mental hospital is located in Evanston. Other counties that prescribe high amounts of opioids are Hot Springs, Park, Washakie and Fremont.
The report, called “Telling the Story of Opioid Use In Wyoming,” shows that the state’s overdose death rates are also rising at the same rate as the national average. Last year, 7.8 people per 100,000 died of opioid overdoses in Wyoming. Back in 2003, not even two people overdosed per 100,000. Nationally, 8.9 per 100,000 people overdosed.
Wambeam said the good thing is that, so far, it isn't easy for Wyoming’s opioid users to turn to the cheaper heroin that’s easily available in neighboring states.
“Wyoming isn’t, I think a huge market for drug dealers to come to and they’re not going to make a ton of money here because the population is so small,” Wambeam said. “In Laramie, where I live, they’ve seen people with heroin. They’ve almost always gone to Denver to get it and bring it back to Laramie.”
Marc Condojani is with Colorado’s Community Behavioral Health. He said Colorado’s rural areas are starting to see higher heroin abuse.
“We’re seeing heroin in parts of the state we’ve never seen it before.”
He said it’s interstate highways that bring heroin and Wyoming has plenty of those.