Substance Use Exposure Dashboard

Call Data from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center's Poison Help Line

The Substance Use Exposure Dashboard provides local information about the health impacts of substance use (alcohol, marijuana and opioids) in Denver County. Help Line data only represent part of the surveillance picture for substance use. Health surveys, emergency department and hospital discharge records, fatal vehicle crash records, and substance use treatment programs also provide useful information.


Key Findings

  • Opioid-related calls are most common, followed by calls about alcohol and marijuana exposures. 
  • The number of calls about marijuana remained relatively flat during the time when marijuana was only legal for medical use (2001-2013). Calls rose briefly in 2014 following legalization of recreational marijuana use and are trending downward since. 
  • The numbers of calls related to opioids and alcohol have been trending downward since 2008. 
  • Most calls for all three substances are related to eating or drinking the substance. Fewer calls were attributed to smoking or injecting substances.     

Frequently Asked Questions about the Substance Use Exposure Dashboard

Where do these data originate?

Data represents local substance use exposure information from calls to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center's Poison Help Line. Callers may be people concerned about their own exposure or people calling on behalf of others. Medical providers also use the Help Line to better manage their patients' health.

Call operators who are trained to collect information about hazardous exposures and provide medical advice receive thousands of calls each year. Call operators collect and record data during the initial call. They also follow up with callers to understand what happened after the call.

Calls summarized in this dashboard are limited to calls from (or about) people who were exposed to alcohol, marijuana or opioids in Denver County. To protect patient privacy, estimates for four or fewer calls in any category are not shown.

How do I use this dashboard?

This dashboard includes multiple pages visualizing substance use data. Use the menu bar at the top to move between pages. Use filters at the top of each page to see data for a specific group or to toggle between counts and rates. You can also view data in PDF format.

How was a caller's county identified?

Calls come from homes, businesses or hospitals with a Denver zip code. It is not possible to identify the location of a caller within a zip code. Because some zip codes cross county lines, each call was assigned to a county based on which county occupied the largest physical area of the zip code. Some calls originating in Denver County could be excluded from Denver dashboards because a majority of zip code where the call originated is located in a non-Denver county.

How are substance use calls identified?

When a caller reports exposure to a substance, call operators use standard codes to record that exposure in the call record. Call operators also record a confirmation of exposure or non-exposure. Non-exposure is recorded when ruling out the causes of poisoning or when a caller is seeking general information. Some calls may have multiple codes because multiple substances were involved. Each call where a code for alcohol, marijuana or opioids is present and exposure is confirmed is counted as one substance use call in these dashboards.

How can I learn more about marijuana health and safety?

The following sites provide more information about marijuana health and safety issues.

What are the data limitations to consider?

Help Line data has some limitations, including:

  • Not all individuals who are affected by these substances call the Help Line. 
  • Individuals with serious health effects such as an opioid overdose may be too sick to call the Help Line or may be taken to the hospital instead of calling the Help Line for advice. 
  • Dashboards are based on self-reported information and callers may fail to accurately report substance use or exposure.