How California Is Battling the Opioid Crisis

The significant rise in opioid deaths in recent decades has led to a national crisis. In the United States, nearly 450,000 people have died from opioid overdose in the last two decades. Today, approximately 128 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose every day. Contrary to what you might think, opioid abuse and addiction isn’t just a public health problem; it’s an economic predicament, as well. According to the CDC, the misuse of prescription opioids alone costs the United States an estimated $78.5 billion a year.

As a national crisis, the opioid epidemic has affected each state differently. In fact, the number of opioid overdose deaths in California increased by 9 percent since 2015, according to 2017 data. By 2018, 45 percent of California’s drug overdoses involved an opioid. Fortunately, California’s Department of Health Care Services has several projects and programs in place to help lessen the opioid epidemic’s devastating effects on the state.

What You Need to Know About Opioid Abuse

man sitting next to opioid bottleOpioids are a specific group of drugs that help ease, reduce, and relieve pain. Opioids fall into two main categories: medications prescribed by doctors, also known as “painkillers,” or illegal opioids, also known as “street drugs.” All opioids, whether they are medically-prescribed painkillers or illegal street varieties, come from a natural source, the opium poppy plant. Whether legal or illegal, all opioids can have a potent effect on the brain. When used chronically, opioids can easily lead to addiction.

Doctors mainly prescribe prescription drugs to help ease chronic or intense pain. Often, doctors use opioids to relieve pain after surgery or traumatic injuries. Sometimes, doctors recommend opioids to help treat chronic headaches, migraines, and backaches. At other times, doctors may prescribe opioids for cancer patients dealing with intense pain.

Some of the most commonly used opioids include:

  • Oxycodone, which is also known as OxyContin, Oxy, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicet, and Endocet
  • Hydrocodone, which is also known as Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, Lorcet, and Vicoprofen
  • Codeine, which can be found in medicines like Tylenol #3 or Robitussin AC
  • Methadone, which is sometimes used to help medically treat opioid addiction
  • Morphine, which is also known as MS Contin and Roxanol
  • Fentanyl, which is also known as Sublime, Subsys, Duragesic, and China White. Fentanyl is extremely potent and even a tiny amount can cause a fatal overdose.
  • Heroin, an illegal opioid

Whether legal or illegal, all opioids act the same when consumed. When you take an opioid, the drug attaches itself to opioid receptors in your brain and body, blocking your body’s pain signals and reducing the amount of pain you feel. Additionally, opioids release a neurotransmitter, or brain chemical, called dopamine, which produces pleasure.

Large amounts of dopamine can trick your brain into thinking it needs a high level of dopamine consistently in order to function well and experience happiness. Taking large amounts of opioids for a long period of time satisfies this impulse, allowing your brain to become dependent on opioids. Opioid dependency can lead to a higher tolerance for the drug and, in turn, addiction. Whether prescription or illegal, chronic use of opioids can cause addiction and interfere with your physical, emotional, and mental health.

How Has California Responded to the Opioid Epidemic?

California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has responded to the state’s opioid problem by implementing the California Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Expansion Project.

California Medication Assisted Treatment Expansion Project

opioid epidemicFunded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), California’s MAT Expansion Project works to increase Californians’ access to medically-assisted treatment and reduce opioid overdose deaths through addiction prevention and recovery activities. The project, which has a special focus on youth, rural areas, and American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities, has several initiatives, which include:

The California Hub and Spoke System (H&SS)

  • The goal of H&SS is to increase medically-assisted treatment in counties with the highest opioid overdose rates. “Hubs,” or narcotic treatment programs, provide treatment for people struggling with opioid use disorder. “Spokes” are office-based treatment settings that offer ongoing recovery care and additional treatment as needed. California’s Hub and Spoke System has 18 hub and spoke networks and more than 200 spoke locations.
  • Results: Since implementing the program, more than 21,000 Californians in areas with a high risk of opioid overdose have received treatment for opioid addiction challenges. In addition to that, California’s H&SS has helped reverse more than 7,500 opioid overdoses.

The California Bridge Program

  • California’s MAT extension project has worked to improve the quality of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in hospitals and emergency departments, as well. The Bridge Program provides specific training for emergency department and hospital personnel on how to treat symptoms of substance use disorder. In the training, hospitals learn to respond to substance use disorders as a treatable chronic illness. The program also equips hospitals and emergency rooms to better handle addiction, overdose, and opioid misuse.
  • Results: Just a year after the program began, more than 50 healthcare facilities statewide participated. As a result, more than 4,300 Californians received emergency recovery services. In addition to that, doctors and healthcare professionals referred more than 2,000 people with opioid addiction challenges into addiction treatment programs.

Expanding MAT in Criminal Justice Settings

  • Approximately 65 percent of incarcerated Californians have a substance use disorder. In the past, these individuals did not have access to treatment. Without proper treatment, people incarcerated for illegal or reckless behavior are often more likely to repeat their offenses. California’s MAT Expansion Project works to decrease repeated criminal activity by financially assisting counties interested in developing addiction treatment programs for individuals in county jails.
  • Results: Currently, there are 2 cohorts underway in 29 counties. Each participating county has made considerable and measurable progress in expanding addiction treatment in their county jails.

The Naloxone Distribution Program (NDP).

  • Through the Naloxone Distribution Program, police departments, county jails, probation officers, firefighters, EMS, schools, universities, public health departments, and approved community organizations can receive naloxone kits to help reduce opioid overdose death.
  • Results: Since its initiation, NDP has helped reverse more than 7,500 opioid overdoses. In fact, in January 2019, police officers and firefighters in Chico, CA used naloxone units from this program to save 12 lives after 13 individuals overdosed on fentanyl.

Other ways California has helped curb the opioid epidemic include the:

  • Mother and Baby Substance Exposure Initiative, which has helped decrease neonatal abstinence syndrome, also known as NAS. NAS is a group of conditions that can occur when an infant withdraws from drugs that they were exposed to before birth.
  • California Youth Opioid Response Project, which helps prevent and treat opioid addiction and provides recovery services for youth ages 12 to 24.

We Can Help You Overcome Opioid Addiction

Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we’re happy to call California home and join our state’s efforts in curtailing the opioid epidemic by providing an evidence-based opioid addiction treatment program.

We offer 3 different treatment programs to choose from: residential, partial hospitalization, or our intensive outpatient program. We also have a specific drug and alcohol detox program. All of our programs include personalized treatment in an inviting, warm, and friendly environment. We also offer a beautiful location not far from California’s mountains, beaches, valleys, and national and state parks, which can make it easy for you to improve your physical health as you recover from opioid addiction challenges.

We believe that treatment is only the beginning so contact us today at (760) 253-1414 if you or a loved one are looking for a treatment center that’ll help you prevent relapse and live sober as you work to rehabilitate your entire life.

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