Published On: Fri, Nov 6th, 2020

6 Stats You’ll Want to Know about Substance Abuse in California

California, whose moniker is the “Golden State,” is the third-largest state by area and the most populous in the country. It also has the distinction of being the largest sub-national economy in the world. The state is also a notable trendsetter in popular culture, and life in California is usually associated with glitz, glamor, and technological advancement. 

But even a state with as much capital and cultural wealth as California is not free from the problem of substance abuse. There are some alarming trends concerning the use of alcohol and drugs that Californian residents need to address. Learn about these and find rehab facilities in California to make a difference in the life of a loved one struggling with addiction.  

needle pills addiction

photo/ Arek Socha

8% of Californians Meet the Criteria for Substance Use Disorder

Up to 8% of California residents meet the criteria for substance use disorder detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). That number accounts for about 2.7 million people in the state. 

Of this chunk of the population, 6% meet the criteria for alcohol dependence and 3% meet the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs. 0.6%, on the other hand, fit the criteria for abuse of pain medications. But only about 10% in total of those Californians who met the DSM criteria for substance abuse disorder sought treatment for their condition. 

Alcohol Use Disorder is the Most Common Substance Use Disorder in California

The numbers above indicate that alcohol use disorder is the most prevalent type of substance use disorder in the state. During the California Health Care Foundation’s 2015-2016 survey, more than a third of Californians aged 18 to 25 had binge-drunk in the past month. 

Alcohol also accounts for most non-fatal emergency room visits in California among all other substances. Between 2012 and 2014, there were more than 300 visits to the ER for alcohol-related cases. These numbers accounted for more than all other substances combined. 

Substance Use Disorders Endanger California’s Teens and Young Adults

In many cases throughout the state, exposure to drugs or alcohol begins at a young age. Most occurrences of substance use disorder in California are actually among teens and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. 

Between the years 2013 and 2015 alone, the rate of substance use among Californian public students grew. According to the California Health Care Almanac released in 2018, majority of Californian high school juniors reported using alcohol at least once. More than a third of this same demographic had also tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime. The same publication reported that one in five juniors in Californian public schools had also used prescription pain medicines to get high.

Marijuana Is the Most Commonly Used Illicit Drug in California

Across the age groups of 12–17, 18–25, and 26 and above, marijuana or cannabis is the most frequently abused illicit substance. Marijuana usage across the state increased by 40% from the years 2002 to 2016. 

After marijuana, misused pain medications, cocaine, and heroin follow on the list of commonly used illicit drugs in California. Thus, law enforcement efforts in California for illicit substances are often directed towards those. 

Heroin Use Remains a Problem within the State

Though the rates of heroin use and overdose in California are lower than in most US states, it is still a commonly abused drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), most seizures of heroin by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are done at the US-Mexico border near San Diego. 

Heroin-related emergency room visits are also on the rise. Heroin-related cases in Californian emergency medicine departments increased from 1,219 in 2006 to 4,095 in 2017. 

Almost 5,000 Californians Died from Drug Poisoning in 2016

The death toll from drug poisoning has also risen among Californians since the beginning of the millennium. The California Health Care Almanac reported a total of 4,700 drug poisoning deaths in the state in 2016 alone. This number increased by 2,000 since 1999. 

California reports a lower rate of drug poisoning deaths than most other US states. But for so long as the numbers continue to rise, the problem of drug abuse will demand further action.  

Final Words: Your Role in Reducing Substance Abuse in the Golden State

Statistics like these tend to paint a grim picture about complex issues like substance abuse. But don’t forget, it’s never too late to reverse the trends and add to the number of recovered patients. 

If you’re based in California and know someone in need of treatment, refer them to a program today. You’ll be doing your part in safeguarding their health and improving California’s substance abuse problem, one life at a time. 

Author: Briana Jones

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