Drugs and addiction recovery in California - everything you should know - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Drugs and addiction recovery in California – everything you should know

California seems to have everything you could ever wish for – miles of beautiful beaches, snowy mountains, elite universities, and booming businesses. The state is one of the most populated ones in the U.S. It’s a home for 39 million people. Unfortunately, the size and location make California an attractive place for drug dealers.

There are Mexican borders on the south. And the western border is completely made up of the Pacific Ocean with major ports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Southern California is dotted with airports and airstrips. The state’s extensive transportation infrastructure is a huge benefit for drug traffickers who deliver drugs to the local users and the rest of the country.

Drug abuse is a problem that has the size of an epidemic. Yet, there’s always a choice – to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Any treatment centers in California are among the best in the world. A-list celebrities Mel Gibson, Britney Spears, and Ben Affleck chose to undergo rehabilitation from substance addiction here.

The Rates of Drug Use in California

According to the 2015-2016 survey conducted by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 4,097,000 of people in California aged 12 and older reported illegal substance use in the past month. This represented about 12% of this category of the population. The level was higher than the national average for that year which was about 10%.

In 2018, The California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) published its first Almanac “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment”. Here’re some key findings from it:

  • 3% of the California population met the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs.
  • Substance use disorders were most prevalent among youth aged 18 to 25.
  • By 11th grade, 43.5% of California students have used marijuana, 6.4% of 11 graders have tried cocaine at least once, and 21.8% have taken prescription pain medications.
  • The visits to hospital emergency departments due to drug use more than tripled between 2006 and 2017.

Indeed, the statistic data raises troubling issues. Hospitals in California treat one heroin or prescription opioid overdose every 45 minutes. 40,000 emergency room visits each year relate to drugs. 3 out of 10 car accidents involve illicit drug use.

Drug abuse in California has been #1 reason for premature death for years. It kills more people than car accidents, suicides, homicides, and firearms. Sadly, only 10% of people who suffer from this problem receive any type of treatment, including treatment in rehab in California for drugs.

Along with cocaine, heroin, and other illegal substances, prescription painkiller abuse has become a major issue in the state. In 2011, a study by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute found out that 1% of prescribers accounted for about 30% of opioid prescriptions, and the top 10% accounted for 80% of prescriptions.

Drug Laws in the California State

Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine, crack, heroin, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, or prescription-type drugs used non-medically. Penalties for drug possession vary depending on the type of drug, its amount, and the purpose of possession.

Possession of illicit drugs for personal use is classified as a misdemeanor type offense. It’s punished by a fine of up to $1,000, community service hours, or up to 1 year in county jail. A secondary offense increases the fine up to $2,000 (or community services) and brings up to 2 years’ imprisonment.

Penalties for possession for sale are from 2 to 9 years in prison and a fine of $750-150,000. When it comes to marijuana, California is historically one of the most pot-friendly states. It was the first in the country to create a medical marijuana program in 1996.

More serious crimes, such as drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, and diversion of prescription drugs, are punished by major jail time and harsh penalties.

In 2016, a Rowland Heights doctor was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for over-prescribing drugs that caused three patients to die. It was the first time a doctor had been convicted of such type of murder in the U.S. The jury also found Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng guilty on more than a dozen falsified prescribing counts.

Over the years, California officials have adopted many laws to decrease the import of narcotics and cut back their distribution. Unfortunately, laws related to drug possession for personal use don’t cope with the actual problem, which is drug abuse and addiction.

California’s Drug Addiction Programs

Some addicts get treatment because it’s court-ordered. If someone is charged with possession, there’s a possibility to be involved in a “drug diversion” program. That means that the convicted can go to a rehabilitation center in California instead of jail. And if they successfully complete a program, the charges get dismissed.

Others are looking for help themselves. The choice of treatment centers in California is wide. There’re rehabs that help clients fight addiction to various substances, such as cocaine, heroin, crack, opioids, prescription drugs, and more. Some centers accept insurance, others offer sliding payment services.

Patients in rehab get basic treatment which is commonly used in all treatment facilities in the state and country. At first, they undergo detoxification that helps clean the body from toxins. After this, they start participating in therapy. The goal is to find the reason for addiction and to learn coping mechanisms.

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA), California rehabs can boast great success:

  • Around half of the drug addicts that undergo outpatient treatment programs quit abusing.
  • Addicts who enroll in an outpatient treatment become three times less likely to be imprisoned for possessing illegal substances.

It’s possible to find a rehabilitation center in California that fits your individual needs. If you like yoga and meditation, opt for a holistic center. They also may offer art therapy, animal therapy and messages. If you’re a religious person, look for a faith-based rehab. Do some research and you’ll find the right facility.


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