Back in the early 2000s, opioids were once a medical breakthrough to help alleviate pain and discomfort touted by pharmaceutical companies as being non-addictive. With doctors putting their faith in the drug companies, they started writing prescriptions for their patients. This is one reason why the opioid epidemic in Los Angeles has become so severe.
Fast-forward 20-some years, and we now know opioids are addictive drugs, with millions of people struggling with opioid addiction and hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths. In Los Angeles, drug addiction and abuse are nothing new.
However, thanks to education and training, how addicts are treated have changed. In the 1980s and 1990s, rather than helping people get the treatment they needed, they simply arrested them and put them in jail. Today, Los Angeles is taking a different approach to the city’s war on drugs by helping addicts get the treatment they need.
When Did the Opioid Epidemic Start in Los Angeles?
Initially, when opioids were released to doctors, they were overly prescribed to patients in Los Angeles and other cities throughout the United States. By the time doctors realized opioids were addictive, it was too late. People were already addicted.
As doctors attempted to wean people from opioids, it opened up new drug trafficking from Mexico and the growth of the illegal opioid market in Los Angeles. With Los Angeles located so close to Mexico, it was not long before LA became a major drug trafficking hub providing access to illegal opioids.
In addition, opioids become a gateway drug for people who can no longer obtain them. Instead, they turn to other illegal drugs to fuel their opioid addiction, such as heroin, because it is cheaper and more readily available.
Opioid Addiction Statistics in Los Angeles
According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), they identify several opioid overdose death hotspots in Los Angeles County in 2018, as follows:
- 5.7 deaths per 100,000 residents in West Los Angeles
- 6.0 deaths per 100,000 residents in the Los Angeles Metro region
- 6.4 deaths per 100,000 residents in the Antelope Valley region1
In 2019, the California Department of Public Health reported the following statistics:
- 3,244 overdose deaths for any opioid
- 1,603 overdose deaths related to Fentanyl
- 11,767 emergency room visits associated with any opioid overdose
- 17,576,679 new prescriptions written for opioids
The Los Angeles Department of Public Health released some key trends in opioid abuse from data gathered through 2017, as follows:
- California had the 4th highest number of overdose deaths in the nation – 4,868
- There were 464 accidental opioid-related deaths in LA County on average every year from 2011 through 2017
- The individuals who died from overdoses died approximately 30 years prematurely
- Emergency room visits increased 51% from 2006 to 2017 for opioid overdoses
- Hospitalizations from opioid abuse rose 31% from 2006 to 2017
- The prevalence of opioid abuse in Los Angeles County is 4.7% higher than the national average of 4.3%
Even with evidence of an opioid epidemic in Los Angeles, prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and other opioid drugs are still being overprescribed in California. Further fueling the increase in opioid abuse, many users are turning to illegal opioids and synthetic opioids they can purchase off the streets.
So, ultimately, the epidemic is not being driven by just one, but both prescribed opioids and illegal opioids.
What Is Being Done in Los Angeles to Address the City’s Opioid Epidemic?
Los Angeles has developed educational programs for law enforcement and first responders to learn about opioid abuse and addiction as a disease. They are being taught how to use Narcan (naloxone), a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses when administered in time.
Naloxone has also been made available to the general public for anyone who is at risk or who has a family member at risk of overdosing on opioids. Furthermore, California has initiated syringe exchange programs to help reduce the risks of hepatitis and HIV.
At the same time, the programs help get abusers into clinics where they have access to rehab treatment programs in their area. While syringe exchange programs can seem controversial, as providing drug abusers with clean needles, initial data from the programs have shown an increase in admissions into drug rehab programs statewide.
Drug Rehab in Los Angeles
Struggling with opioid addiction could put you one step closer to accidental overdose and potentially death. If you want help and are ready to get it, do not hesitate to take the first steps by contacting us today.
Joining New Life House young adult recovery communities in Los Angeles provides you access to a safe, supportive, caring, healthy, happy, and sober environment, free from distractions and the temptation to abuse opioids.
Together, we help support young men and their families to help them achieve long-lasting success in recovery by providing access to high-quality structured sober living facilities in Los Angeles.