Los Angeles County is a major hub for people all over the world. However, it’s also a county that sees a high availability for illicit substances and addiction. Learn more about the most commonly abused drugs in the county and which ones are likely to lead to severe substance use problems.

For the most part, the most commonly abused drugs in Los Angeles County are ones that are legal to buy and use. Alcohol is among the top three most common psychoactive substances in the United States, along with nicotine and caffeine. Unlike the other two, alcohol has high abuse potential, and it can cause severe substance use disorders when it’s abused.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 6 adults binge drinks four times a month. Not all binge drinking leads to addiction, but abusing alcohol greatly increases the chances of developing a substance use disorder.

In California, recreational marijuana use is legal and widely used. Marijuana isn’t known to cause addiction or compulsive use in the way that alcohol or other drugs can. However, it’s possible to develop a psychological dependence on the drug and feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when use is cut back or stopped. Marijuana is often called a gateway drug that leads to the use of more dangerous substances.

The validity of that theory is unclear, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) does point to some studies that show a link between early exposure to marijuana with substance use issues later in life. However, it’s worth noting that it’s illegal to use marijuana recreationally before the age of 21 in California.

Prescription drugs such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines are also commonly abused. Most of these medications are safe and well-tolerated when they’re used as directed, but if they’re abused, serious consequences can result.

Benzodiazepines can lead to a deadly overdose when mixed with opioids, alcohol, or other depressants. Some college students abuse amphetamines frequently in high-pressure environments to boost wakefulness, focus, and study skills.

The Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis has affected the United States and the world as a whole, dramatically increasing the number of addiction cases and overdoseAn aerial view of the city of Los Angelesdeaths.

Opioid addiction often starts with the abuse of prescription drugs and then evolves into the use of cheaper and easier to obtain illicit drugs like heroin.

After marijuana, heroin is the most widely available illicit drug in the country.

In 2017, California had the fourth-highest number of opioid overdose deaths in the country at 4,868 overdose deaths.

Between 2011 and 2017, there was an average of 464 accidental overdose deaths involving opioids in Los Angeles County each year.

Commonly abused opioids include prescriptions for morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone and illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

Meth Use on the Rise

In the shadow of the opioid epidemic, other drugs are on the rise in specific parts of the United States. In California, there seems to be a rise in the use of methamphetamines. Meth is a powerful stimulant drug that used to achieve a potent euphoric high. Meth is sometimes produced in illegal, domestic laboratories, but it’s more commonly smuggled into the country. Because of LA County’s proximity to the Mexican border, it is vulnerable to an increase in meth availability.

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