The opioid epidemic that has the nation in its clutches isn’t restricted to a single geographic region. In places like California, which is the most populous state in the U.S., opioid abuse affects thousands of families.
As they do elsewhere, problematic opioid prescriptions in California seem to follow patterns. Here, however, large population zones aren’t the centers of addiction that you might assume they’d be. Instead, many rural counties have seen significant increases in both the rate at which doctors prescribe these drugs and the prevalence of problems. Here’s why opioid prescriptions outnumber people in some parts of California.
Where Are California’s Opioid Hotspots?
Data from 2016 showed some fascinating trends in Californian opioid prescriptions. In six of the state’s seven northernmost counties, there were more prescriptions than there were residents. Many of these counties were also among the highest in terms of opioid death rates.
Why Do Hotspots Exist?
It may seem obvious that places with more prescriptions would have more mortality incidents. What’s important to understand, however, is that many different factors can impact people’s likelihood of suffering from problems like addiction. For instance, some neuroscientists point out that most prescription pain pill abusers aren’t using their own prescriptions but rather drugs that belong to their friends or family members. On the other hand, groups like the American Society of Addiction Medicine say that among certain at-risk populations, such as adolescents and young adults, prescription rates almost doubled from 1994 to 2007. The Department of Health and Human Services also made achieving improved prescription practices a key goal in its fight against the epidemic.
A Combination of Circumstances
There are quite a few factors to consider, and in California, many of the hardest-hit areas are also rural. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, merely living in a rural area and having a low income can make someone more vulnerable to abuse and overdose. The CDC also highlights numerous trouble signs that could put someone at greater risk, such as having a history of substance abuse or mental illness, taking high daily drug doses and prescription shopping.
Among Medicaid patients, inappropriate prescribing practices are significantly higher. The CDC claims that in 2010, improper prescription standards affected 40 percent of those enrolled in the program. Caregivers placed patients at higher risk of addiction by:
- Giving them overlapping pain-relief prescriptions,
- Prescribing excessively high daily dosages, and
- Providing long-lasting and extended-release drugs for pain that wasn’t chronic, or ongoing.
What Does All of This Mean for Californians?
Many factors will figure into your experience with opioid drugs. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the reality that some people just face worse odds than others.
The Dangers of Bad Medical Practices
Your personal choices and ultimately determine your opioid outcome. Unfortunately, your caregiver or prescriber may have placed you in a tougher situation by failing to give you a dosage that matched recommended guidelines or prescribing you overlapping drugs that made the addictive effects even stronger.
Opioid drugs are highly likely to raise your tolerance the more you use them. Seemingly minor prescription errors may result in you becoming addicted without even knowing that you were in danger.
Struggling With Misconceptions
One unusual aspect of the opioid epidemic is that it seems to have caught the nation by surprise. Even though some people, such as cancer victims, may derive benefits from using opioids, there are severe miscommunications between drug companies, doctors and patients.
As noted by the National Council on Patient Information and Education, numerous studies show that teenagers and young adults mistakenly think that it’s safer to abuse prescription drugs than other illegal drugs. Journalists at the Los Angeles Times also pointed out that the misinformation problem may extend beyond regular citizens. One 1980 study claiming that these prescription drugs weren’t addictive had been used as a research reference hundreds of times by March 2017. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, also pleaded guilty to criminally misleading America about how addictive their product was.
Working to Make Things Better
It may be unfair to blame those who struggle with opioid prescriptions in California for everything that happened to them. These victims are the only ones with the power to make positive changes, however.
Nobody is completely immune to addiction. If someone you know is close to becoming another statistic of the opioid prescription abuse epidemic, learn more about the options at Ocean Hills Recovery of San Juan Capistrano.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.