California has the largest Increase in Opioid Deaths
The number of deaths from synthetic opioids increased by 50 percent in the Golden State and this is only one of the statistics which increased across the state. California also saw an increase in suicides and an increase in alcohol fatalities.
Synthetic opioids add several new risk factors of death. As they are so powerful in smaller doses, it is nearly impossible for users to judge how much is too much. This, coupled with the fact that many times the drug user may be unaware synthetic opioids are in the drugs they are taking, adds to the likelihood of a fatal overdose.
The Pain In The Nation Update Report shows that 500 Americans died on average every week during 2017, showing just how dangerous these opioid analogs are.
Alcohol deaths in the state have been steadily increasing since 2008 and the state has seen an increase of 38 percent during that time period. Last year 5,096 people died due to alcohol-related deaths.
“To be seeing that go up consistently year after year is a sign that people are turning to it as a kind of self-medication, to deal with factors that are causing them pain.”
—John Auerbach, CEO of Trust for America’s Health
While California did see one of the highest rises in overdose deaths, it still has one of the lowest deaths per 100,000, though this is offset by the huge population in the state. California is the most populous US state with over 39 million denizens. When you look at it by just the number of deaths per state, California ranks number four out of the top states for drug-related deaths.
While many states have seen an increase over the last year, it is alarming to see such a large increase in one state from one year to the next—especially with it being an increase across several categories.
This leaves many officials speculating both as to why the increase and how to combat the uptick in deaths. One prevalent theory is that there is a lack of effective treatment in many areas across the state. So, what is California doing to combat these issues?
In response to this, the California Department of Health Care Services announced that 22 counties were selected for a pilot program to bring drug treatment to those incarcerated. This comes after one study found that treating drug abuse in jail can have a drastic effect on overdose rates among those being released from incarceration.
“We should be worried… We may experience the type of fentanyl epidemic that the East Coast has experienced. But we have some real advantages in California,” said Kelly Pfeifer, an opioid policy expert with the nonprofit California Health Care Foundation.
California has also expanded Medicaid in the state and is hopeful that will allow more addicts access to treatment.
“Increasing access to medication assisted treatment and services and decreasing the stigma associated with substance use disorders are critical to our continued success.” —The State Health Department of California
Only time will tell if California’s plan to combat the surge in overdose deaths will be successful.
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