Los Angeles, California’s largest city, is an international destination that boasts some of the nation’s best. It has sealed its place in history as having world-class entertainment, cultural arts, fashion, and scenic natural areas, including 75 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean. 

At least 10 million people call Los Angeles County, California, home, and millions more visit the area every year. While the county and its star city are places of promise for big dreams of stardom, fame, and much more, they also deal daily with the harsh realities involving drug and alcohol abuse and addiction

Some of its residents are battling substance use disorders that threaten to derail their health and end their lives. Drug abuse remains one of the area’s greatest challenges when it comes to public health and well-being. 

Treatment for SUDs Encouraged in LA County

County health and law enforcement officials and many others are aware of the impact substance use disorders have on the area. They understand that access to drug rehab services and programs is a must as it gives people the chance to turn their lives around. They also support continued addiction treatment services to help people battling substance abuse as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, we offer a look at Los Angeles County’s substance abuse trends and why the need for drug treatment exists.

Los Angeles County and Drug, Alcohol Abuse Statistics

The need for drug rehab in Los Angeles County is well established when looking at the data highlighting substance misuse in the region. People of varying ages and backgrounds use and abuse substances. However, historically, data show that people ages 18-25 used addictive substances more frequently than any other age group in Los Angeles County and statewide.

“Substance use disorders were most prevalent among young adults 18 to 25, occurring at nearly twice the state average rate,” the Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment report says.

Below are data and conclusions officials have made regarding the seriousness and prevalence of substance abuse in Los Angeles County, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meth, Fentanyl and Accidental Overdose Deaths in LA County

In a report highlighting the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on Los Angeles County, the county’s health department looked at past drug trends to compare pre-and post-pandemic overdose death numbers. According to the data it examined, drug overdose deaths tied to methamphetamine and fentanyl were rising starting in 2018. That rise saw a sharp increase in March 2020, which is widely acknowledged as the pandemic’s official start. 

Based on its study, the report asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to more drug overdose deaths in Los Angeles County than if the pandemic had not happened. Methamphetamine and fentanyl are expected to remain problematic drugs in the region. 

Both drugs caused the majority of accidental overdose deaths between 2010 to 2020, according to the health department. The year 2018 is noted as a year of a significant spike in drug-related overdose deaths due to meth and fentanyl.

Increase in Drug Busts Signal Problems with Meth, Fentanyl Use

For context, the report’s authors point to an increase in meth and fentanyl busts that law enforcement agencies have made in recent years. These busts involve them seizing illegally made fentanyl and fake opioid and sedative pills that contain fentanyl and meth.

“This collective information suggests that these substances are significant drivers of regional increases in drug overdose deaths in Los Angeles County,” the report says.

COVID-19’s Effects on Overdose Deaths in Los Angeles County

Officials looked at past drug trends to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on overdose deaths in the county. To summarize some of its findings taken directly from the report, during the pandemic period:

  • Seventy-eight percent of drug overdose deaths involved males in 2020 (overdose death rates among females increased to a greater degree from 2019 to 2020 when compared with males)
  • Middle-aged (aged 25-34) and older individuals (aged 45-64) had the highest accidental drug overdose death rate and total raw numbers of deaths, respectively.
  • COVID-19 appeared to contribute to greater drug overdose deaths among minority groups, particularly Blacks/African Americans and Asians, during the first five months of the pandemic. 

Los Angeles County’s Top Drugs of Concern

Los Angeles County was battling with substance use before the pandemic, and certain drugs were found to be more prevalent among accidental overdose deaths than others. Per the Los Angeles County Sentinel Community Site (SCS) Drug Use Patterns and Trends, 2020 report, methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription opioids were listed as the top drugs to watch in the county. This was the conclusion after overdose deaths, treatment admissions, and other factors were studied.


Per the report, methamphetamine is a significant problem in Los Angeles County. It is linked to more deaths in Los Angeles County than any other substance, according to the county health department. 

In 2019, 40.3% of toxicology cases at the Medical Examiner’s Office tested positive for meth. Also, in that year, 35.2% of treatment admissions were for meth, which reportedly was an increase of over 32.9% in 2018. This was also the 11th straight year of increases in meth use.


Heroin, an illicit opioid, showed mixed trends, the report says, but its numbers and percentages were lower than meth. Only 14.6% of toxicology cases at the Medical Examiner’s Office tested positive for heroin/morphine, and 21.9% of admissions were for heroin, a decrease from 25.5% in 2018.

Prescription Opioids 

According to the report, while prescription opioid medications remain a focus of public concern, it is not a major presence in treatment admissions in Los Angeles County. Increases were noted among Medical Examiner toxicology cases in 2019, and they are attributed to increases in fentanyl. 

Overall, narcotic analgesics (including fentanyl) were found in 28.0% of cases, an increase of over 21.5% in 2018. Fentanyl was found in 16.4% of cases in 2019, which was an increase of over 9.8% in 2018.

In past years, however, Los Angeles County grappled with the opioid overdose crisis that has affected much of the U.S. in recent years. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health highlights data that shows that an average of 464 accidental opioid-related deaths occurred annually between 2011 and 2017.


Alcohol abuse is an issue in Los Angeles County. Of the 34,534 treatment admissions in the county in 2019, 22.2% of them were for alcohol abuse. This is the second-highest rate after meth admissions, which was at 35.2%. 

On par with past reports, adults ages 18-25 in Los Angeles County continue to have a higher rate of substance use disorders than any other age group. Excessive drinking rates, which include binge drinking, are also high among this age group.

According to a March 2019 report from the County of Los Angeles Public Health, alcohol, and other drug use costs the county nearly $13 billion every year. It notes that people with substance use disorders (SUDs) incur two to three times more medical expenses than people without a SUD. It cites the data below to show how alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use affects the county:

  • 2,938 AOD-related deaths
  • 32,682 AOD-related ED visits
  • 108,809 AOD-related hospitalizations
  • $60,947 charge per AOD-hospitalization
  • $6.6 billion total AOD-hospital charges

Statewide, alcohol abuse sends more California residents to the emergency room for the treatment of nonfatal alcohol-related issues. 

Inpatient Drug Rehab for SUDs

los angeles county drug rehab

Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, for drug and alcohol use disorders is widely viewed as an effective way to help people recover from substance abuse and achieve sobriety. Managing an addiction is an active, lifelong commitment for most people, so services are needed to help people get the treatment they need.

Depending on how severe the addiction is, a person may have to spend 30 days or more in a facility to get the most out of their recovery program. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends 90 days at least, but individual factors can make this timeline shorter or longer.

Inpatient Care Offers 24-Hour Support for People in Recovery

Inpatient treatment requires 24-hour care in a structured and monitored environment that ensures patients’ safety. Medical and addiction care professionals are available around the clock to administer care. An environment focused on recovery helps patients concentrate on their substance use disorder without outside distractions and influences. 

CHAT Vistas Offers Personalized Treatment Programs

California Highlands Vistas, about a 2.5-hour drive from Los Angeles County, offers a comfortable, private environment where patients can receive personal care to address their substance misuse. We offer amenities in a relaxing luxury environment to all who come here for residential treatment. 

Our accredited facility sits on a 2.5-acre property surrounded by northern San Diego’s natural beauty of hills and scenic views. The outdoors encourages healing as our patients use clinically proven practices to work through their addiction.

Drug Treatment Starts with Medical Detox

Patients can undergo medical detox here during substance withdrawal. After they gain stability, they follow a plan tailored to meet their medical, psychological, and social needs. Patients will work with licensed clinicians who will guide them through therapies and counseling to help them gain the skills and tools they will need to end their substance misuse and dependence. 

This is particularly important as they must be able to identify triggers that arise with challenging situations outside the treatment setting. The ability to effectively manage these challenges without using substances can help them avoid having a relapse.

After your program ends at CHAT Vistas, you can receive aftercare services and other support as you embark on your recovery journey outside of treatment.

LA County Substance Use Laws, Prevention, and Recovery

Substance abuse problems often lead to trouble with the law. 


It is illegal to possess methamphetamine, heroin, and other narcotic drugs in California under California Health and Safety Code Section 11377. In cases of simple possession, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor and faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. 

If a person has possession of crystal meth, they can be charged with a felony if they have been convicted on a sex crime charge or an offense such as murder or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.


Also, under California law, it is illegal for people to own, sell, transport, make or be under the influence of heroin. A case of simple possession could lead to a misdemeanor charge, but sales and trafficking of the substance is a felony. A person charged with a felony faces a sentence and could end up in jail or prison, depending on the seriousness of the charge.


Driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance is illegal in California. The state has a zero-tolerance policy blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level limits vary according to who’s under the influence. 

  • The legal BAC for drivers age 21 and up is 0.08%. 
  • For drivers under age 21 and drivers on probation for a DUI, the BAC legal limit is 0.01%. 
  • The BAC legal limits for commercial vehicle drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is 0.04%. This is also the same for drivers who work for rideshare services or cab companies.

How Los Angeles County Is Addressing Substance Abuse

Los Angeles County offers various programs to help people who get into trouble with the law recover from substance abuse. Various drug court programs are offered for various groups of people, including women, veterans, and people with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders. 

Los Angeles County has outlined its goals and objectives in addressing substance use and prevention in an August 2020 report titled “Prevention Standards and Practices Manual.” 

Overall, it aims to educate youths to change the perception that alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamine aren’t harmful. It sees educating young people about the harms of these substances as its most effective effort to address substance misuse.

Also, in past years, county officials joined together to address the opioid epidemic with initiatives aimed at reducing the number of opioid overdose deaths and lowering common barriers to treatment. Part of the county’s strategy also aims to educate the public about how first responders and family members can use naloxone to help people who have overdosed on opioid medications or heroin.

The state also launched the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Expansion Project to help 20,000-plus people address their opioid use disorder (OUD). MAT programs help people with OUD and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Tap to GET HELP NOW: (888) 721-5606