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Los Angeles County Drug Treatment and Substance Use

LA county averaged 464 deaths per year from 2011 to 2017 from opioids. The number of emergency room and hospital visits of those seeking help increased 20% from 31% in 2006 to 51% in 2017. With 4.7% of the residence misusing their opioid prescriptions which is slightly higher than the national average of 4.3%. 

Community Consequences of Premature Deaths By Drug Addiction

Parents are losing children and children are losing Mothers and Fathers. Huge family and community voids are created by every death. Drug related premature deaths reduce their life span by 30 years on average. Reducing the number of adults in the age bracket of 20 to 50 years old that would otherwise make contributions to the community and workforce. 

How Does Drug Use affect the Health System in LA?

In 2012 at Columbia University a study of how the abuse of addictive medicines negatively affected the health resources in LA was conducted. The numbers below representing LA are from the years 2013 to 2017 using the Columbia study as a guide to help compile the data for numbers on an annual basis.

  • 2,938 deaths related to alcohol or drug use.
  • 132,682 Emergency room visits related to alcohol or drug use including overdoses.
  • 108,809 hospitalization of a patient related to the abuse of alcohol or drugs.
  • $60,947 was the amount on average each of the hospitalizations.
  • $6.6 billion each year is the cost of these emergency rooms and hospitalization of alcohol and drug related visits.

How Does Drug and Alcohol Use affect the Criminal Justice System?

In California, 33% or 101,619 arrests were made on an annual basis from 2012 to 2017 for drug and alcohol-related offenses. From 2014 to 2017 LA county had 90,845 felony arrests that were drug and alcohol-related offenses.

  • 43% of the arrests involved a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • 25% of these arrested were for drug law violations.
  • 65% of all inmates in the California criminal justice system have been diagnosed with a Substance Use Disorder.
  • To keep each criminal locked up in California cost the taxpayers $70,812 annually.
  • $7.7 billion is spent annually on Substance Use Disorder issues includes keeping inmates incarcerated, their trials and any treatment they receive while behind bars.

How much does it Cost Taxpayers for Drug and Alcohol-Related Treatments and the Consequences of Using Drugs?

The portion of the California state budget spent on drug and alcohol abuse related subjects is 19.5% annually as of 2005. With the federal funds added to help handle the load, a total of $467.7 billion was spent in 2005 on drug and alcohol related treatments and dealing with the consequences as a nation. The breakdown of  spending is below;

  • 95.6% of the funds went to the consequences of drug abuse-related items with the 2 largest areas being health care at 58% or $207 billion and legal fees and incarceration at 13% or $47 billion.
  • 1.9% went to prevention programs and treatments to help alcohol and drug addicts.
  • 1.4% on taxation and regulations.
  • 0.7% on intervention treatments and programs.
  • 0.4% on research.

What is the Breakdown of LA County’s Population?

The following is how the population of LA county is categorized with recent data for residents 12 years old and above in age for the fiscal year 2017 to 2018.

  • 0.4% or 37,770 people were in publicly funded Substance Use Disorder (SUD) programs.
  • 8.4% or 725,000 people have SUD and are not in a treatment program.
  • 25% or 2,157,000 people are classified as risky users but do not fit the criteria of SUD.
  • 66.2% or 5,709,000 people are considered non-users.

The breakdown SUD (Substance Use Disorder) patients in age, ethnically, sexually, handicaps, and drug of choice.

  • 63.4% of those in a SUD treatment facility were male.
  • 46.5% were Latino.
  • Their ages span from 26 to 54 years old.
  • 72.5% were unemployed.
  • 66.2% said English is their native language.
  • 42.4% were homeless.
  • 40.3% used Heroin.
  • 21.6% used methamphetamine.
  • 13.9 used marijuana.
  • 13.4% used alcohol.
  • 6.0% used prescription drugs.
  • 3.7% used cocaine.

What Types of Treatments are Available in LA County?

All levels and types of treatments are available in Los Angeles County. Typically the first step is a detox center. After detox, the patient is usually transferred to a residential treatment center. For patients that do not require detox, there is also outpatient as a treatment option. 

Residential Treatment Facilities Population

  • 55.0% of patients were classified as homeless.
  • 3.3% were employed.

The drug of choice

  • 47.7% methamphetamine
  • 21.4% alcohol
  • 12.4% heroin

This treatment type had positive compliance of 51.1% when the patients were discharged.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

24.3% of the patients admitted to this type of program were between the ages of 12 and 17.

The drug of choice

  • 38.9% marijuana
  • 35.7% methamphetamine
  • 16.7% alcohol

This treatment type had positive compliance of 52.1% when the patients were discharged.

Standard Outpatient Programs

               The drug of choice

  • 34.3% methamphetamine
  • 31.5% marijuana
  • 20.3% alcohol

This treatment type had positive compliance of 42.9% when the patients were discharged.

Opioid Treatment Programs

Between the fiscal years of 2006-2007 and 2015-2016, the number of opioid-addicted patients seeking treatment increased from 15.4% to 38.7% of all SUD patients in LAC. This is an increase of 151%.

  • 53.2% of patients were 45 years old or more.

The drug of choice

  • 87.4% heroin
  • 11.0% prescription opioids

This treatment type had positive compliance of 26.2% when the patients were discharged.

The majority of patients in treatment programs for SUD are in the age group 25 to 65, other classifications have been identified:

  • 7.7% were 12 to 17 years old.
  • 15.5% were 18 to 25 years old.
  • 2.4% were over the age of 65.
  • 16.5% are involved in the criminal justice system.
  • 21.5% were homeless.
  • 20.7% had one or more disabilities.
  • 5.0% identified as LBGT.
  • 3.6% were US veterans.

It is evident there are people suffering from Substance Use Disorder in Los Angeles County. Unfortunately 98% of all funds allocated to handle this problem going to dealing with the consequences of drugs and only 2% for the treatment of drug use, the county can’t win the battle without funding going to treating Substance Use Disorder rather than punishing the afflicted.

Another prevailing problem seen in the statistics is that all of the treatment programs have around 50% success rates or lower. Just treating the addiction to drugs is not enough. The root cause that leads to the person using drugs as their escape mechanism from the real world has to be diagnosed and treated. The root cause can be from social pressures, mental illness, or traumatic incidences. This is why a tailored made treatment program for each person with SUD is necessary for them to live a life free of addiction.


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