California attracts people from everywhere who want to bask in the Golden State’s glow. The state makes up most of the West Coast of the United States, stretching more than 700 miles north and south. It is home to nearly 40 million people and offers so much to see and do for everyone—from palm trees, sun, and Hollywood stars to majestic mountains, rolling hills, beaches, parks, natural areas, and too much to list here.
Even people who don’t live in California dream about what life in the state is like, and enjoy California dreamin’ as many locals do. But California, while a dreamy paradise for many, is still a place on earth that faces the realities of life. These challenges include the region’s seemingly never-ending fight with drug and alcohol addiction.
An overview of the state’s substance use problems gives a clear picture of the long road ahead of state officials who are working to combat substance abuse. It also illustrates why drug and alcohol treatment in California is needed.
The opioid crisis, deemed a national problem and public health emergency, affects California like just about everywhere else in the United States. Overdose rates on these powerful substances make headlines nearly every year as people continue to succumb to misuse and addiction to these drugs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 67,367 drug overdose deaths were reported in the United States in 2018. Data from that year shows that nearly130 people died daily after overdosing on opioids.
Also, in 2018, California had nearly 45% of drug overdose deaths that involved opioids. This figure translates to 2,400-plus people in California who died from potent drugs, including the illegal street drug heroin and fentanyl, a drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
California’s proximity to Mexico, with whom it shares a border, contributes to the state’s challenges with heroin addiction. Smugglers have brought the drug into the country in private vehicles across the Southwest Border, making it harder for federal authorities to detect illegal activity.
Drug dealers use fentanyl to cut their heroin supply to make it more potent and stretch their supply. This practice is widely believed to have contributed to so many opioid-related overdose deaths. Many heroin users buy the drug, thinking they just bought heroin, but that, unfortunately, is not always the case.
NIDA highlights this problem in its analysis, writing, “Among opioid-involved deaths, the largest increase involved synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly fentanyl and fentanyl analogs) with a more than 60% increase from 536 in 2017 to 865 in 2018.”
Substance abuse is prevalent statewide as cities and counties implement initiatives to help people who are in active addiction. According to the 2018 report Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment, about 8% of California’s population met the criteria for having a substance use disorder, but only 10% received treatment for it. The report also found that:
California is home to residents of all ages and backgrounds. Still, according to this report, residents in the 18-to-25 age group statewide were found to use substances more than other age groups. From the report: “Substance use disorders were most prevalent among young adults 18 to 25, occurring at nearly twice the state average rate.”
It also notes that alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and prescription drugs were the most popular drugs of choice for people in this group.
Data from the report also shows that across the state, alcohol use sends more Californians to hospital emergency rooms to treat nonfatal alcohol-related issues. It is also a popular substance for people who practice polydrug use, which involves using two or more drugs at the same time for either an enhanced effect or to take the edge off another drug that could produce a strong effect.
California is also home to the legal cannabis industry, which is among the largest in the United States. Some observers say this contributes to the use of the drug. Despite its existence there, the state still has its issues with illegal marijuana use as well as stimulant use, which includes the illegal methamphetamine (meth for short).
Being neighbors with Mexico has also contributed to the trafficking of methamphetamine into the States. One publication highlighted a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that linked meth use to a significant number of overdose deaths in the U.S. West in 2017, including California.
State officials are aware of the challenges California faces with drug and alcohol addiction. They have implemented social services and initiatives, but those are only part of the solution. People who want to recover from substance misuse will have to do some work, too. Fortunately, California is home to many rehabilitation facilities to help people who want to live sober.
California offers a wide variety of options for alcohol and drug addiction recovery. Entering a substance recovery program here means you may have time to explore its treasures. The options are nearly endless.
People who want to come here can receive treatment for substance use disorders near the Malibu beaches, mountains and resort villages, and bustling cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or the laid-back city of San Diego. It depends on the person and their needs, which is essential to having a successful recovery.
Facilities offer clinical/psychological based recovery programs, faith-based recovery programs, holistic addiction recovery programs, and 12-step programs, among many more.
READY TO GET HELP?
Talk to a treatment expert
The goal of addiction treatment at an accredited facility is to use evidence-based approaches to treatment someone’s substance use disorder with a “whole person” approach that addresses substance abuse on every level, including the mental, emotional, psychological, and perhaps spiritual, as well.
Some people who enroll in a treatment program will have to start with medical detox, a process that can last several days, depending on how severe the substance use disorder is. Medical professionals monitor patients daily around the clock to ensure patients are withdrawing from a substance(s) safely. They also may give them FDA-approved medications as part of a Medication-Assisted Treatment program to help them taper off addictive drugs. This approach is commonly used for people recovering from opioid addiction and alcohol addiction.
Once all traces of abused substances exit the body, and the user regains stability, then comes the part where they start a recovery program.
Again, depending on where a person is at this phase, they could begin at the inpatient or residential level, which is the highest level of care, or they can begin at a lower, less restrictive level where there is more flexibility schedule-wise. You can read more about the levels of care here, as outlined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
As patients show improvement and progress in their programs, they may be given more responsibility and moved to less supervised settings and medical care. There is no timeline for recovery. Everyone is unique and will move at their own pace.
Various therapies and treatment modalities are offered in many programs to allow clients the time to understand their addictions, find healthy ways to address triggers, everyday situations, and cravings that could lead to relapse, and much more.
All programs and services aim to give people in recovery the guidance and support they need in this new chapter that requires full-time sobriety so that they can effectively manage their lives.
If you or a loved one is thinking about entering a recovery program, make sure you do your research and look for quality programs that offer approaches backed by science and programs tailored to each individual’s needs. No two people are alike, so no two treatment programs should be alike.
You might want to ask if they accept your health insurance and if your insurance covers the treatment programs you need. If not, you might need to find a way to pay for the services or supplement whatever parts your insurer does not cover. Once you complete your program, you are not alone.
Aftercare services can help you transition slowly back to everyday life and offer help with finding employment, housing, and like-minded people who understand your story and your journey.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, April 30). California: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/california-opioid-involved-deaths-related-harms
California Health Care Foundation. (2018 October) Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment. Prevalence of Substance Use Disorder, by Drug Type. California, Annual Average, 2015 to 2016. Retrieved from http://www.ochealthiertogether.org/content/sites/ochca/Local_Reports/Substance_Use_in_California_2018-10.pdf
ABC7. (2019, December 19). 'Meth is king in California': Golden State is major hub for Mexican drug cartel activity, DEA says. Retrieved from https://abc7.com/methamphetamine-drug-overdose-deaths-mexico-cartel/5766623/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 10). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020, April 29). Medication and Counseling Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment#medications-used-in-mat
(May 13, 2015). What are the ASAM Levels of Care? Continuum: The ASAM Criteria Decision Engine. Retrieved from https://www.asamcontinuum.org/knowledgebase/what-are-the-asam-levels-of-care/
“Finding Quality Treatment for Substance Use Disorders.”SAMHSA Publications. Retrieved from https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Finding-Quality-Treatment-for-Substance-Use-Disorders/PEP18-TREATMENT-LOC