California Heroin Addiction Treatment, Rates and Statistics

California is a large state with a melting pot of ethnicities, economic statuses, and demographics. Its close proximity to the Mexican border, several international airports, miles of Pacific Ocean coastline with numerous large port cities, and multiple interstate highways may make the Golden State a target for drug trafficking operations that may smuggle drugs through land, sea, or air. Heroin is a narcotic drug derived from the opioid poppy plant that is primarily imported into the United States from Mexico and South America, with a small amount potentially coming from Southwest Asia.[1]

In recent years, heroin abuse has increased across most demographic groups, potentially as the result of prescription opioid drugs becoming harder to divert and abuse.[2] Heroin abuse is not just occurring in low-income and minority populations either; usage has increased in groups of people that traditionally had low abuse rates, such as women, higher income individuals, and those with private insurance. Usage rates have doubled for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 since 2002.[3]

Heroin abuse in America increased 63 percent between 2002 and 2013. In 2013, more than 500,000 Americans admitted to past-year heroin abuse or dependence, up 150 percent from 2007.[4]  In California specifically, heroin abuse may also be increasing as emergency departments (EDs) and hospitals saw a 10 percent increase in heroin-related cases in the first half of 2014 when compared to the first six months of the previous year.[5]

heroin abuse in american

Differences between Treatment Options in California

treatment options Heroin is an addictive drug that acts on opioid receptors throughout the central nervous system, blocking pain, increasing feelings of pleasure and relaxation, and slowing down heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. The more someone abuses a drug like heroin, the more the brain and body may come to depend on the drug. Addiction is both psychological and physical in nature, affecting health, emotional wellbeing, interpersonal relationships, job production, and family home life. Just as addiction is a personal disease that may not affect any two people in exactly the same way, addiction treatment should be tailored to fit the needs of an individual.

In California, the Department Health Care Services (DHCS) operates the Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD) Services Division to provide heroin abuse and addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery resources to Californians and their families.[6] When a California resident struggles with heroin addiction, the first step may be to schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor in order to seek a referral to a public treatment program that is run through the local county office.

Public treatment facilities provide services to individuals regardless of their ability to afford it, and the Drug Medi-Cal (DMC) Treatment Program is intended to help individuals who are Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) recipients.[7] Addiction and mental health are often closely related and mental health services may be warranted during treatment or recovery also. The California Mental Health Services Division (MHSD) provides resources for residents of all ages.[8]

Public treatment facilities may not meet the growing need for treatment, however. A gap exists between those who need substance abuse, addiction, or mental health services and those who actually receive these services. In California between 2009 and 2013, only 12.6 percent of those needing services for illicit drug abuse or dependence received care, while 36.5 percent of adults (aged 18 and older) needing mental health counseling or treatment for any mental illness (AMI) got what they needed.[9]

Private substance abuse or mental health programs may provide additional resources and services to more people. Private programs are generally considered fee-for-service establishments. Many take insurance or have flexible funding options to help families budget for treatment. In order to operate a substance abuse treatment or recovery program within the state of California, the facility must be licensed through DCHS if they are to offer 24-hour residential care or any of the following services: detoxification, substance abuse education, group or individual sessions, or treatment or recovery planning for alcohol or drug abuse.[10] Transitional homes, or sober living facilities, may not need to be licensed. Facilities who go above and beyond the minimum state licensure requirements may seek certification through DHCS as well.[11]

Both private and public treatment programs may provide the following services:

  • Preventative services: These resources help families and individuals to better understand the perils of drug abuse and addiction.
  • Detox or medical detox: This involves the safe removal of heroin from the bloodstream and the management of potentially powerful withdrawal side effects.
  • Intensive outpatient programs: Individuals participate in a structured program that will likely include pharmacological, therapeutic, behavioral, educational, and support methods during the day. The person returns home to sleep at night.
  • Residential programs: This comprehensive treatment program provides around-the-clock care and likely includes all the facets of intensive outpatient programs.
  • Outpatient services: With outpatient care, counseling, therapy, life skills training, educational opportunities, medical management, and support groups work on a flexible schedule.
  • Programs for unique populations: Women, children, elderly, and other specialized populations may benefit from programs tailored specifically to their demographics.
  • Complementary or alternative medicine: This may include services like acupuncture, yoga, fitness training, nutritional planning, meditation, equine-assisted therapy, and massage therapy.
  • Transitional programs: Sober living arrangements are generally for individuals who have completed residential treatment. They are supportive, sober homes where they live for a while before returning home.
  • Recovery services: These services include peer support, 12-Step programs, and other resources to help maintain long-term recovery from drug abuse, addiction, and/or mental illness.

List of Heroin Addiction Resources

Substance abuse and mental health services and resources may come from a variety of sources, from nonprofit groups to community organizations to programs run through the state of California or private facilities. More information on specific behavioral health services within California can be found at these sources: