More than 400,000 people have succumbed to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Millions of people are addicted to opioids, and health care feels strained. The effects of opioid abuse have put law enforcement and social services under so much strain and cost the government billions. Opioid abuse is most prevalent in beach cities and states with higher populations, but why? In California, the Orange County opioid crisis is especially of concern for its long string of treatment centers throughout.

In Orange County, California, hospitalization as a result of substance abuse has increased, and so has the budget. Between 2011 and 2012, $269 million went into substance-related hospitalization. Between 2013 and 2015, hospitalization charges estimates stood at $425 million. The trends in the U.S are the same in Orange County, where opioid-related overdose deaths have increased over the last 15 years. In Orange County, however, the situation is dire, seeing that opioid-related deaths increased by 88 percent between 2000 and 2015. More than 50 percent of these deaths are a result of an accidental prescription overdose.

Why So Many Cases of Opioid Abuse in OC?

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System estimates that 1,711,809 opioid prescriptions got dispensed to OC residents in 2015. The close to 2 million prescriptions might be a reason why there is a crisis in Orange County. Although there is an increase in opioid prescriptions in the U.S., with about 289 million prescriptions each year, Orange County is relatively using more opioids than other counties in the U.S. 

The increased use of prescribed opioids in OC increases opioid abuse in the county. This prompted the OC Health Care Agency and Sheriff-Coroner to research Opioid-related deaths and hospitalization.

How Dire is the Situation?

The main indication of the opioid crisis in Orange County is the increasing Emergency Department (ED) visits since 2005. According to the Sheriff-Coroner report, ED visits have nearly doubled between 2005 and 2015 to 1,769 cases. Residents of Orange County were more likely to be admitted to hospitals for opioid abuse and dependence, up to 77 percent likelihood. Methadone poisonings also account for hospitalization in Orange County. Most cases related to heroin poisoning and overdose do not get to hospitals.

Generally, males abuse opioids more than females. Opioid-related health issues and deaths are prevalent among youths between 18 and 34 years old. Between 2011 and 2015, 7,457 cases of opioid-related hospitalization cases made their way into hospital reports – this averages to 1,491 cases each year. Of 10 overdose-related deaths, seven were from an opioid overdose. In the five years of the study, there were 1,207 deaths as a result of an opioid overdose. Granted, it shows there were 241 opioid-related deaths each year between 2011 and 2015. Residents above the age of 45 years are more affected in opioid-related deaths. Throughout the study, there was a 141-percent increase in the rate of opioid-related ED visits. Most of the deaths related to opioid use in Orange County are accidental, but there is still a large percentage of the deaths due to prescription.

Wealthiest Cities in Orange County Have the Worst Opioid Crises

Cases of opioid overdose have strained emergency room resources in hospitals in Orange County. Over the last decade, hospitalization cases have more than doubled according to a health care agency report. According to the report, cities with the highest opioid hospitalization cases are the wealthy cities in the south and coastal Orange County. At the top of the list are Dana Point and Costa Mesa. Other towns that fall at the top of the list include San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Laguna Niguel, and Huntington Beach.

Cities with the least reported hospitalization cases in Orange County include Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, and San Juan Capistrano. 

Why Is This the Case?

The affluent communities in Orange County have more free time and more access to prescription opioids. Most of the cases reported in these affluent neighborhoods involve opioids such as Vicodin, morphine, and Oxycontin. In most cases, these opioid crises in these affluent neighborhoods in the country are prevalent in older people. Heroin overdose, hospitalization, and death cases are common in central and north OC thanks to the relatively cheaper cost of Heroin. Again, evidence of heroin abuse and hospitalization are more prevalent among the young.

Most people having aches and pains, especially after surgery, take opioids to relieve the pain. During the duration one takes prescription opioids, they develop dependence. Deaths related to opioid use in Orange County are way higher than the state average. Even deaths resulting from an opioid overdose on OC are nearly three times higher than in Los Angeles, the neighboring county.

To try and combat the opioid crisis in the county, the Department of Public Health in California gives Orange County higher doses of Naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of opioids. It is distributed by a nonprofit organization that identifies individuals at risk of opioid overdose and addiction.

The Situation in the Country is Getting Worse

The Orange County opioid crisis is merely a concentrated reflection of the overall country. Opioids are getting stronger each day – they’re easier to use to try to manage chronic pain. The crisis the country is facing today started in 1980 when research showed that doctors could prescribe opioids for pain. In the 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry began producing drugs such as OxyContin in mass numbers. The aggressive production of these drugs, coupled with fraudulent marketing to enhance patient satisfaction, lead to an increase in pharmaceutical narcotics. 

About the same period, there was an increase in pill mills as more people sought prescription opioids around the country. By 2000, so many people got addicted to opioids either from taking them as prescription drugs or for recreation. The journey started as pills but then continued to become heroin addiction.

As more people were addicted, the heroin market changed significantly. Prices fell substantially as more drug distributors joined the market sending drugs to suburban areas and rural areas where they had never been. In most parts of the country, suppliers found a ready market for opiates. Fentanyl showed into the market in 2014, further widening the choice of opioids available to the many people who were deep into addiction.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction in Orange County, CA

It’s no coincidence that OC is one of America’s largest counties known for addiction rehabs and recovery programs. Whether it be inpatient rehab, medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, or residential sober living after detox, there is help available to those who are part of the opioid crisis.

If you’re in Orange County and are seeking support to put an end to opioid addiction, get help as soon as possible. At Opus Health in Newport Beach, we know what it’s like to be physically and mentally trapped in the cycle of opioid drug abuse. With the help of an understanding team of nurses, doctors, and support professionals, we can affirm you that recovery is possible from opioids– even the hardest of drugs. Reach out for help today.

If you or a loved one needs help overcoming opioid addiction in southern California, contact us at Opus Health.

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