How Does California Fit Into the Opioid Crisis?

As President Trump this morning is expected to declare the opioids epidemic a public-health emergency, the Golden State can truly relate.

While states like West Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire have carved out unenviable reputations in the headlines as bastions of prescription painkiller abuse, California has hardly been spared the ravages of this public-health crisis: last year alone, 1,925 people died of opioid-related deaths in the Golden State.

Trump reportedly will instruct acting Health Secretary Eric Hargan to declare a public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act, which will enable federal agencies to dedicate more grant money to fight the epidemic.

When it comes to drug abuse in America, misery truly loves company.

The announcement will surely be welcomed in places like Vermont that have been ravaged by  the abuse of prescribed drugs like OxyContin and illegal substances like heroin, banned as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Vermont for years now has had the second-highest per-capita rate of all states for treatment admissions for prescription opioids; only Maine’s is higher. And the numbers have been climbing steadily for years: More than 4,000 were in state-funded treatment for opioid abuse in 2013 — up from 399 in 2000.

So how does California compare? From the California Department of Public Health and its Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, here are some numbers that paint a troubling picture for the state as the president declares war on the crisis:


Number of opioid prescriptions per 1,000 residents in 2015


Opioid prescriptions in 2016


Heroin-related deaths in 2011


Heroin-related deaths in 2014


Opioid-overdose deaths in 2014 (fairly consistent since 2006)


Opioid-overdose deaths in 2016


Heroin-related emergency-room visits in 2011


Heroin-related emergency-room visits in 2014

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