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We need to talk about fentanyl

We need to talk about fentanyl

Over the weekend, five adults were found dead in an apartment in Commerce City. Their deaths were all attributed to fentanyl-laced cocaine. Officials speculate the victims were most likely unaware that they were ingesting fentanyl.

It was a tragedy that has become all too common of late and highlights how urgent the need is for us to do something different — and fast.

Today on the podcast, I talk with Attorney General Phil Weiser about the rise in fentanyl overdoses, what the state is doing to address this crisis, and how it’s shaped his work since he took office in 2019. 

🎧 LISTEN: “More Like Poisoning Than An Overdose”: AG Phil Weiser on the Fentanyl Crisis

For perspective, the Colorado Health Institute says that in 2020 “…overdoses involving fentanyl made up about 68% of all opioid analgesic deaths. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled.”

Basically, fentanyl is like a crisis on top of a crisis — we were already seeing rising deaths from opioid use, and fentanyl just made it worse. Make no mistake: Fentanyl is sneakier. It’s popping up in non-opioid drugs like cocaine. It’s showing up in pills and places where people may not even be aware they are ingesting opioids, and it’s often a hell of a lot stronger than the substances it’s mixed with.

But something that I want to get across is this: People who use drugs are still people. Whether it’s a kid at a party taking what they think is a Xanax for the first time, or it’s someone injecting a drug for the 100th time, both of their lives are worth saving. The context of use doesn’t matter to me; I want to see people stay alive. People who are alive can do things like seek support for substance use disorder if they so choose. But they have to be alive to make those choices.

For me, the conversation with our AG was personal – almost a decade ago, I helped a loved one detox from heroin. They survived their substance use issues, are sober, and are still in treatment today. Substance use is a lifelong battle for most of us. I’m 15-plus years sober from alcohol, and I still struggle. But the point is, we are alive.

If you’re lucky enough to have so far avoided being personally impacted by the overdose crisis, know that it won’t be long before you’ll lose someone you know to an overdose. I consider myself fortunate – the person in my life who was struggling with heroin came and told me before it was too late. We were able to find them support through the Harm Reduction Action Center. HRAC welcomed us without shame and their support is a big part of the reason my loved one is alive today. But since then, I’ve lost friends to overdose. My brother’s best friend died in 2021 from an injection drug overdose.

So how can you help? Educate yourself on what we’re facing. AG Weiser mentioned this New York Times piece that lays out the situation we’re in with fentanyl; you can listen to the conversation I had on Overdose Awareness Day with Lisa Raville from Harm Reduction Action Center and support the work they do; and you can order fentanyl testing strips and the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone from the city of Denver FOR FREE!

— Bree Davies, City Cast Denver Host



Watch Films From Across the Globe, February 14-March 1:

The 26th Annual JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center’s Denver Jewish Film Festival powered by The Chotin Foundation will be held virtually and in-person from February 14 through March 1. The festival includes 34 films and shorts showcasing cinema from 14 countries from Jewish and Israeli directors and filmmakers.

🗳️ Hancock slides into South High to talk voting: Last Friday, the Denver mayor took over an AP Government class at South High School to talk to students about voting rights. His lesson included a PowerPoint, video, and an assignment encouraging students to write to Congress about two pending bills relating to voter rights. 

  • An important distinction: He was not subbing. Though much of the press surrounding Hancock’s visit has said he was there to highlight the district’s substitute teacher shortage, I feel it’s important to note that Hancock himself was not in fact subbing. The regular class teacher was there. 

💰 “We are a crypto-forward state”: That’s what Gov. Jared Polis told attendees at last weekend’s cryptocurrency conference, ETHDenver, hosted at the Denver Sports Castle. The governor intends for Colorado to become the first state to accept cryptocurrencies as payment for state taxes and fees.

🥶 Baby, it’s (really damn) cold outside: I hope you spent some time outside over the weekend, ’cause it’s about to get arctic up in here. According to the National Weather Service, a massive cold front will move through the state this week, resulting in highs in the teens and lows in the single digits. Despite freezing temperatures, little snow is expected. 

🏅 ICYMI: Here are Colorado’s newest olympic champions: The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics concluded on Sunday. Of the 23 athletes that Colorado sent to the games, three of them brought home medals: Brandon Frazier (silver in team figure skating), Nicole Hensley (silver in hockey), and Alex Ferreira (bronze in the freeski halfpipe). Congrats to all! 👏

Refer your friends to the City Cast Denver newsletter because it’s awesome and you love it — aaand because you can earn super sweet City Cast swag while doing it! Use your unique referral link to start referring now! 


TONIGHT: Cider and cupcakes
At this week’s Cider and Sides pairing event, Stem Ciders will partner with Mermaid Bakery to match delicious ciders with decadent, over-the-top cupcakes. (Seriously, just look at the photo of these cupcakes.)

THURSDAY: Test Great Divide pilot beers
Think you’ve got a great palate for beer? Taste test brand new, experimental pilot brews at Great Divide Brewing Co.

THURSDAY: Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Colorado’s premier film festival aiming to inspire and educate audiences about protecting the environment kicks off this Thursday. This year’s festival will be completely virtual and will offer online screenings of more than 90 films meant to motivate change.

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