Los Angeles, California, is a major U.S. metropolitan city with a growing population of people from every possible walk of life, cultural background, and history. Many people move to the LA area to take advantage of its temperate climate, bustling nightlife, and accessibility to one of the nation’s most beautiful oceans. It is also a city with an increasing homeless population and a rising number of deaths from drug overdoses.
Among the thousands of Californians who struggle with drug addiction are the many homeless people. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in this population, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Methamphetamine was the most used drug causing overdose deaths, followed by fentanyl-related deaths. Men and women equally perished from overdoses among the unhoused.
The Port of Los Angeles is a major U.S. port for commerce and the distribution of goods imported from around the world and also is a major source for the distribution of illicit drugs from Mexico and Central America. LA local news station KTLA reported in February 2019 that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with Australian authorities, arrested six people and seized 1,728 kilograms of methamphetamine, which was headed for the country down under.
Meth, cocaine, fake synthetic opioids, and fake prescription drugs laced with fentanyl are the drugs most commonly reported when speaking of the Los Angeles drug addiction problem.
Keep reading to learn more about how Los Angeles is managing drug issues and how substance use disorder treatment can save lives.
Los Angeles County Drug Crime Laws
Several laws in Los Angeles County pertain to the possession of controlled substances, methamphetamine, and marijuana. There are also a few laws in regard to the transportation of controlled substances, being under the influence of a controlled substance, manufacture of controlled substances, and possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia (any device used to inject or ingest a controlled substance). Each law carries its own fines and punishments.
The most common substances involved in drug crimes in the county include cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, prescription pain medication (Percocet, Vicodin, morphine, codeine), and marijuana.
Despite the legal status of recreational marijuana, it is illegal for an adult to possess more than 28.5 grams of it and illegal for people under the age of 21 to possess it. In addition, it is against the law to sell marijuana without a license or sell to a minor.
State of California Opioid Initiatives
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that California estimated 45% of drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018. Synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, were the main culprits in fatalities. As the state and county of Los Angeles reel from these drug-induced deaths, the California Department of Public Health created the Overdose Prevention Initiative.
This initiative expands Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs, educates physicians and pharmacists about safe prescribing for opioids, and increases naloxone distribution. Naloxone is a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose and is in the hands of first responders.
Los Angeles Drug Abuse Statistics
As mentioned above, meth, prescription opioids (real and fake), synthetic opioids (real and fake), and heroin are the primary drugs of abuse causing emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and overdose deaths in Los Angeles County, as reported to the county’s Public Health Department, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control unit.
Fifty-two percent of drug overdose deaths involved prescription drugs, of which 71% involved prescription opioids. Death percentage rates due to prescription opioids and heroin remained stable in Los Angeles County and increased for synthetic opioids.
Emergency department visits and hospitalizations for opioid misuse and abuse (excluding heroin) increased significantly over recent years. Meth-related drug problems are also a major source of drug misuse and abuse in the county, as reported by the county.
A total of 44,498 emergency department visits listed methamphetamine abuse, dependence, use, or poisoning as the principal diagnosis or primary cause of injury.
The most frequently reported diagnosis for methamphetamine-related emergency department visits was methamphetamine abuse at near 70%, followed by dependence on the substance at 17.7 percent.
Los Angeles Substance Use Prevention
The Los Angeles County Public Health Department’s Substance Use Prevention Services released a report in July 2020 which noted that the “vast majority (94%) of those who had a SUD (substance use disorder) and needed but did not receive SUD treatment felt they did not need treatment.”
They also explain that among the patients in publicly funded addiction treatment programs, the most common main drug problem for youth aged 12 to 17 was marijuana, with more than three-quarters of all addiction treatment admissions in the previous three years. Second was methamphetamine and alcohol. Meth accounted for more than one-third of all admissions in the previous three years. Heroin also ranks as a commonly abused substance.
While there seems to be a significant number of people misusing or abusing drugs and marijuana in Los Angeles, many substance use treatment centers are available to help individuals overcome addiction and lead healthy lives.
Drug Rehab Inpatient Treatment
If a person has become dependent on drugs and tries to stop using them, they will start to experience withdrawal symptoms. The general rule is that the longer and heavier one takes drugs, the stronger one will feel withdrawal symptoms. It is never wise to stop taking drugs abruptly or to detox from drugs at home. Some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and will require immediate medical attention, such as dehydration or seizures.
The first step in drug rehab is medical detox. This is a medically supervised treatment protocol in which an individual’s body rids itself of all toxins. The benefit of medical detox is that the individual will have help in coping with withdrawal symptoms.
Different drugs produce different symptoms. Opioids can cause a person to have flu-like symptoms, including heavy sweating, nausea, and vomiting, which can cause dehydration if not tended to. Stimulants, like meth, can cause depression and psychological symptoms. California Highlands Addiction Treatment provides medical detox services and is conveniently located for most people within the county.
Inpatient drug rehab typically lasts from 30 to 90 days. NIDA recommends a stay of 90 days or longer for addiction treatment to be effective. Individuals who undergo inpatient drug treatment will have the opportunity to engage in different therapies, such as group, family, and individual therapy sessions. One can expect to learn and practice skills learned in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical therapy, motivational interviewing and learn new life and coping skills.
One of the most valuable tools an individual will gain from inpatient drug treatment is how to create and stick to a relapse prevention plan. Here, the individual will learn the different stages of relapse and design strategic steps to prevent relapse. Relapse does happen for some people but should never be considered a failure. Instead, it is a chance to rededicate themself to sobriety and perhaps work with a counselor to strengthen the relapse prevention plan.
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that is tough to overcome. With help and support, you or someone you care about can overcome it.