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Addiction Treatment in Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s the county seat of Boulder County and 25 miles from Denver. Boulder was founded in 1859 and has grown to a population of over 100,000, including the 30,000 students of the University of Colorado, the state’s largest college. With its proximity to Denver and large number of college students, Boulder has its share of challenges with drug and alcohol abuse.

If you live in Boulder, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

About Boulder, Colorado

Boulder’s population is 88% white, 8.7% Hispanic or Latino, 4.7% Asian, and 0.9% African American. Boulder’s median income is $58,484, which is lower than the state’s median income of $63,909. 23.1% of Boulder residents live below the poverty level, which is higher than the state’s poverty level of 11.5%. Boulder ranks on several “best city” lists, including the ten happiest cities and the top ten healthiest cities to live and retire.

Drug Use in Boulder County

As in much of the country, opioid abuse is a concern in Boulder. To help combat prescription opioid abuse, Colorado utilizes a prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP. The PDMP compiles information from doctors and pharmacies to help prevent consumers from gaining access to multiple opioid prescriptions. From 2012-2014, there were 87 emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses in Boulder County. There were 43 opioid-related deaths in Boulder County from 2013-2015.

Heroin use is also on the rise in Boulder County. In 2011, there were seven heroin overdose deaths. In 2014, the number increased to 13. This may be due to an increase in fentanyl, which is a narcotic pain reliever often mixed with heroin. The increased use may also be due to the expense of prescription opioids. Heroin may seem like a less expensive alternative.

To help prevent opioid overdose deaths, Boulder County offers classes in how to administer Narcan. Narcan is a prescription that can help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Boulder County’s Works Program offers free Narcan along with a needle exchange program and educational services.

Causes of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you or a loved one has a drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important not to blame them or yourself. Addiction is a complex disease. There are some underlying factors that can make you more vulnerable to drug or alcohol addiction. These include:

  • Genetics play an important role in addiction. Estimates vary, but genetics may account for 50-70% of your risk of becoming addicted.
  • Your environment influences you. If you grew up in a household with abuse, that increases your vulnerability to drug or alcohol abuse. If others in your household were using substances, that makes those substances more readily available and acceptable to you. If your peers are using drugs or alcohol, you’re more likely to use them as well.
  • Using drugs or alcohol when you’re younger makes you more susceptible to addiction. Young brains aren’t fully formed, and drugs and alcohol affect the brain. This changes brain development and brain chemistry, making you more vulnerable to addiction.

The Stages of Addiction

Addiction isn’t something that happens at once. Drug or alcohol addiction happens in stages. It begins with the first stage, which is initiation. Initiation is the first time someone tries drugs or alcohol. They may try drugs or alcohol at a party or other social gathering with friends. Initiation typically happens during adolescence.

Initiation can lead to the next stage, which is experimentation. Experimentation is when you use drugs or alcohol from time to time. You might use when you’re under stress or in social situations like parties. At this point, you can control your use and you don’t “need” drugs or alcohol to function.

The next stage is regular use. You might use drugs or alcohol every weekend. You still have some control, but substance use is becoming a bigger part of your life. You may shift from using drugs or alcohol with friends to using them alone. This leads to the next stage, which is problem or risky use.

In the problem or risky use stage, your drug or alcohol use is becoming problematic. It may be affecting your work or studies. You may start seeing negative consequences such as getting a DUI. Your behavior may be changing and you may isolate yourself from family or friends.

This leads to the next stage, which is dependence. You are showing signs of physical and psychological dependence. This includes experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you can’t use drugs or alcohol and feeling like you need drugs or alcohol to function. You also are building a tolerance, which means you need more drugs or alcohol to get the same effect.

The final stage of addiction is having a substance abuse disorder. In this stage, your drug or alcohol use is out of control. You may lie to friends or family about how much you’re using and you may no longer do things you used to enjoy. Your life revolves around using drugs or alcohol.

Signs Someone is Using Drugs or Alcohol

If you’re concerned that someone you love is abusing drugs or alcohol, there are some signs to look for. These include:

  • Difficulties at work or school. This may include showing up late to work or school or not showing up at all. Their performance may be declining and they may no longer show interest in their work.
  • Lack of grooming. They may no longer take care of themselves and may look dirty or unkempt.
  • Physical changes. They may have bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils. Their weight may change quickly and they may seem more tired than usual.
  • Social changes. They may no longer spend time with friends or family. They may have new friends or may isolate themselves. They may be secretive about their behavior.
  • Financial problems. They may suddenly need money. They may have trouble paying bills and keeping up with responsibilities.

Getting Help

If you’ve noticed you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is help available. There are different treatment options available that fit your schedule and your life. Your first step is reaching out to a treatment center or program.


When you first contact a treatment center or program, you speak with an admissions counselor. This is called pre-intake. Your admissions counselor will ask you basic questions about who you are and why you’re getting help. You can also ask questions about the treatment program, which might include their schedule and programming options and their experience in treating your specific issues. If the program seems like a good fit, then they’ll make an appointment for the next step, which is intake.


Regardless of the type of treatment program you choose, you’ll begin the program by going through intake. Intake is the process of getting you started in your program. During intake, you meet with different members of your treatment team and make financial arrangements for your treatment.

Your treatment team may include a medical professional, a mental health professional, and a case manager. As you meet with each member, they’ll get to know you and your history and formulate a plan for treatment.

You’ll also get a chance to learn more about your treatment program. If you’re starting a residential treatment program, for example, you’ll get a tour of the facility and learn about the schedule and rules for your center. There may be visitor restrictions, for example, and there may be certain items you can’t bring into the center.


During intake, you meet with members of your treatment team. Those team members learn about you and your history in a process called assessment. The main team members who will conduct your assessment are your medical professional and your mental health professional.

When you meet with your medical professional, they will have you fill out forms that detail your health history. This may include any past surgeries, past health issues, and present health issues. You’ll also need to let them know what prescriptions you currently take. Your medical professional will review your history with you and conduct a physical exam, which may also include getting blood and urine samples. All this is to determine whether there are any health issues that need to be addressed during your treatment.

Similarly, your mental health professional will also have you fill out questionnaires. These address your mental health history, and this may include information about your family dynamics, any past trauma or abuse, and whether you’ve been diagnosed or treated for mental health issues in the past. Your mental health professional will review your history, ask questions, and may conduct an initial counseling with you as a part of your intake.


Before you start your treatment program, you will need to eliminate drugs or alcohol from your system. This process is called detox. Detox is relatively short, taking three to seven days in most cases. During detox, you will go through withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, which is why it’s important to go through a medically supervised detox rather than doing it on your own. If your detox is supervised, staff can assist you and prescribe medications to help you through your withdrawal.

Boulder, Colorado Rehab - Inpatient Treatment Centers

Inpatient treatment provides you with around the clock care. If you need to make a break from your present situation and focus exclusively on your recovery, inpatient treatment may be the choice for you. You can choose a treatment center that’s close to home or choose a center that’s in another part of the country in order to enjoy new surroundings.

Residential Treatment Centers

Residential treatment centers give you the chance to make a fresh start. You leave your familiar surroundings and live at the center full time. Some centers focus on a specific type of person, such as women or executives, and others focus on recovery from a specific substance, such as opioids. Whatever your needs are, there is a residential treatment center that will meet those needs.

Residential treatment centers vary in terms of what they offer. Counseling is the focus of most programs, and you’ll participate in individual and group counseling as well as educational programs. Your residential treatment center may also offer other therapeutic options such as music, art, or equine therapy. Some offer amenities like spa services, golf, or acupuncture.

Your residential treatment center will also have rules. You may have restrictions on when you can leave the center and when you can have visitors, for example. There will be items you can’t bring with you into the treatment center. You might have your own room, or you may share a room with another person in recovery.

Residential treatment centers allow you to focus on recovery. Your meals and living situation are attended to and you have staff available 24/7 to assist you. Although being away from family and friends can be difficult, it gives you a chance to gain perspective and make a clean break from your old life. Your length of stay depends on your needs and may range from a week or two to 30 days or more.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

If being away from home isn’t practical or desirable for you, you can still receive intensive, focused treatment for your addiction. A partial hospitalization program provides intensive therapy while you live in familiar surroundings.

In a partial hospitalization program, you attend programming up to five days per week for six to eight hours per day. Program offerings vary, but typically include individual and group therapy and educational programming. There may also be other therapeutic activities like art or music therapy. After your treatment day, you can go home and be with family or friends.

Boulder, Colorado Rehab - Outpatient Treatment Centers

If inpatient treatment sounds a bit overwhelming due to family or work obligations, then you may want to consider outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment means you live at home and can continue with your outside obligations such as work or school. Treatment takes place on a less rigorous schedule, but you can still get the help you need.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs provide you with the treatment you need on a flexible schedule. You go to treatment during the day or evening depending on your schedule. Treatment generally takes 10-12 hours per week, and you attend less as you progress through your recovery. Your treatment program will include individual and group counseling along with educational offerings. During treatment, you live at home and can continue to meet your responsibilities such as caring for family or attending school or work.


After your formal treatment program ends, you will still need support. Building a life in recovery is a challenge, and you’ll need a plan for staying sober. This plan is referred to as aftercare.

Aftercare should take your needs and individual situation into account. If you were in an inpatient treatment program, for example, you’ll need a plan for where to live, especially if you don’t have a safe, stable home. You may want to stay with supportive family or friends or you may want to try a sober living home.

Aftercare should also include ongoing support. This may include attending support groups and getting individual counseling. You may find support from family or friends as well.

Your aftercare plan should also address your need for purpose and fulfillment. As an addict, much of your focus was on obtaining and using your drug of choice. You need activities and goals that give you a new sense of purpose. This may include taking up new hobbies, going back to school to retrain for new employment, or volunteering.

Sober Living

Sober living homes provide recovering addicts with safe, stable housing. They are group homes with rules and structure. The most important rule, of course, is to remain sober. Beyond that, your sober living home may have a curfew, may require you to contribute to the household, and may require attendance at house meetings. You may also be required to have a job or be actively seeking employment or going to school.

Sober living homes provide support when you’re transitioning from treatment back to your day-to-day life. You have the support of your housemates as you face challenges. You can typically stay in a sober living home for 90 days or more, depending on your situation and needs.

Support Groups

Support groups are essential for many recovering addicts. Many attend 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These provide ongoing support and structure. You attend meetings, read program literature, and work the steps of the program. You can also have a sponsor. A sponsor is a more seasoned program member who mentors you in your recovery.

There may also be other support groups in your community. These may be facilitated by a counselor and may focus on a specific type of person, such as women, LGBTQ individuals, or teens. These groups often have an educational component. During meetings, you share your challenges and help others with theirs. Through support groups, you can find purpose and make new friends in recovery.