Substance Abuse in California

The substance abuse landscape in California looks a bit different than much of the United States. Unlike much of the East Coast and Midwest, California’s opioid overdose statistics are relatively low.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as of 2016, California had an opioid-related overdose death rate of 4.9 deaths per 100,000 people, as compared to the national average of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Methamphetamine trafficking and use quickly are becoming a significant substance abuse trend in the state. In 2015, methamphetamines were one of the highest-ranking drugs in Los Angeles County. Just one year later, in San Diego, customs officials seized more than 21,000 pounds of methamphetamine, a nearly 10-fold increase from less than a decade ago.

California also struggles with marijuana use among youths, partially because of the drug’s widespread availability, as it is legal within the state.

What is Substance Abuse Treatment?

Addiction is classified as a chronic, progressive brain disease, which means that without treatment, it will only worsen over time. It also means that addiction currently does not have a cure, which makes managing addictive behaviors a lifelong task.

However, the whole point of substance abuse treatment and recovery is to treat an individual’s substance use disorder to help them avoid relapse and manage their addiction effectively in the long-term.

An effective substance abuse treatment program does this by addressing not only the physical dependency aspects of someone’s addiction but also the psychological ones that serve as the driving force behind their addictive behaviors. This usually starts with ridding the drugs and alcohol from someone’s system through medical detoxification before moving on to the treatment program proper, where they will learn to understand the issues behind their addiction and gain the tools necessary to make a lasting, positive change.

Detox can involve withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the substance and the severity of the addiction. Because the withdrawal process can be uncomfortable and unpredictable, it is carried out under the supervision of an experienced medical detox team, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Either way, this ensures the individual will be carefully monitored by medical professionals who can safely deal with any complications as well as help ease withdrawal symptoms.

Once detox has been completed, the next step in substance abuse treatment is moving forward to ongoing care at an addiction recovery treatment program. Many California addiction treatment facilities include detox as part of their overall program, but not every recovery center will offer this.

Typically, someone in substance abuse treatment will start at the highest level of intensive care and move down to lower levels as they progress through their treatment and require less support.

Addiction recovery looks different for everyone. Each person will move through it at their own pace and may not require passing through every level of care. Generally, though, the progression through a substance abuse treatment program will include:

  • Medical detox
  • Inpatient care
  • Long-term residential care
  • Partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient care
  • Outpatient care
  • Post-treatment support

As someone moves through these levels of care, they will experience a range of therapies and treatment modalities that are designed to provide the resources, support, education, and tools they need to understand their addictions better and manage them effectively. Commonly used therapies include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Addiction education
  • Relapse prevention planning
  • Holistic or alternative therapy

No one therapy will work for everyone, which is why you will work with your clinician or therapist to customize your treatment plan to make sure it best meets your needs and preferences.

What to Look for in a Substance Abuse Treatment Program

If you’re looking for quality substance abuse treatment in California, as well as anywhere else for that matter, doing the proper research is essential to ensure you choose the treatment facility that can provide the best treatment for you or your loved one.

While it can feel a little overwhelming at first, there are various ways to narrow down your options based on what services you require, as not every addiction recovery center will offer the previously mentioned therapies.

For example, if you need medical maintenance therapy for an opioid use disorder, keep in mind that some California treatment centers do not use medications in their recovery programs. Similarly, those with a co-occurring mental health disorder will require dual-diagnosis treatment, which not every facility is equipped to provide. There also are specialized substance abuse treatment programs available for those looking for specifically tailored programs for groups such as veterans or people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

When searching for the best California substance abuse treatment center, other things that are helpful to keep in mind and know before making your choice include:

Evidence-Based Practices

Does the facility offer evidence-based practices that have been backed by addiction research? You will want to find one that employs therapies with a proven record of effectiveness among clients. One example is cognitive-behavioral therapy, often referred to as the gold standard of behavioral therapy.


Does the center have all the required certifications and accreditation to operate within California legally? Also noteworthy is making sure these licenses and certifications are all up-to-date and can be easily provided upon request.


Does it provide any form of post-treatment support or aftercare, such as alumni services?

Payment Options

Does it accept your insurance plan or otherwise offer alternative payment plans or a sliding scale of treatment cost?

Specialized Treatments

Is it equipped to provide specialized treatments you may require, including trauma therapy, medication management, or holistic therapy?

Find Quality Addiction Treatment in California

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it can feel isolating and hopeless. But there is hope, and there is help at California Highlands Addiction Treatment Vistas.

We are committed to providing top-quality substance abuse treatment in California. We offer the full continuum of care, providing our clients with a smooth and stress-free transition from detox to ongoing treatment. Our programs use individualized, evidence-backed therapies with proven results.

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