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Local doctor expects continued influx of Coloradans seeking substance abuse treatment

Posted at 4:16 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 00:42:46-04

DENVER — As Colorado continues to rebound from the pandemic, the celebrations over getting back to normal have been building for months.

Unfortunately for some, the drinking that can go along with those celebrations are just an extension of a problem that's been building for more than a year — addiction.

The lines wrapping around Denver liquor stores spoke for themselves, as alcohol sales soared more than 55% in March of 2020 alone.

The end result was an explosion in the need for substance abuse treatment.

"The number of facilities that are opening up in mental health and behavioral health and substance treatment, I mean it’s increasing across the board, across the country," Denver Recovery Center Executive Director, Dr. Hunter Kennedy, said.

More than 10 new treatment centers launched within the last year in Colorado, according to Kennedy.

The question: will that even be enough to handle the sheer numbers looking for help?

Patient intakes are "doubling and tripling as we speak, and it seems to be a rolling snowball, I mean with no end in sight," Kennedy said.

And while Kennedy has seen his share of relapsed patients, the trend is exposing patients who have never been in treatment before, like Paden Wilson.

"The only thing that was open were liquor stores," Wilson said. "I'd wake up every morning and there's nothing else to do, except drink and smoke weed and do whatever else I was doing."

Wilson's routine hit a roadblock when life started to get back to, well ... normal.

"Coming out of the lockdown, I got a job and it was just that transition going from a lockdown to back into society that I really struggled with," Wilson said. "Like having to wake up in the morning and having to be at work at 7 o'clock and not being able to drink all day."

Kennedy says it's cases like Wilson's that suggests things will likely get worse before they get better.

"I don’t really think it’s happened yet," Kennedy said. "I think people now are just starting to go back to a normal life and as those people go back to work and as they start trying to live normal lives again, I think that we’re going to find that a lot of people have developed substance issues that they aren’t really aware of."

In normal times people can be slow to admit a substance abuse problem. In these unusual times, the process of getting back to normal is expected to delay that reality even more.