Most Commonly Used Substances in California

There are a number of substances, and even behaviors, that individuals frequently fall victim to in addiction. Additionally, some are more common than others. We often see individuals who struggle with alcohol, opioids, or sometimes even battle with food. Despite these commonalities, it has taken a while for the stigmatization of addiction, substance use, and substance use disorders (SUDs) to decrease, and we can certainly afford for further work to be done. As we begin to learn more about these disorders, people are starting to understand how severe and chronic these illnesses are.

According to the California Health Care Almanac, almost “8% of Californians met criteria for substance use disorder.” While that percentage may not be overwhelmingly alarming at first, that’s about 1 in every 12 individuals that may be struggling with SUD at any given time. What substances are most of those individuals dealing with? How are they receiving treatment for that addiction? How can there be more control over these substances in terms of a restriction of access to them? These might be some of the questions commonly asked, so let’s take a look at the substances most frequently used throughout the state of California.

Substance Use Disorder Prevalence in California

The California Health Care Almanac claims SUDs occurs when “repeated use of alcohol and/or other drugs causes significant problems.” Some of those problems may include:

  • Failure to meet responsibilities in personal life or at work
  • Long-term health problems
  • Strained relationships with co-workers, family members, and other individuals
  • An overall inability to function without the use of the substance
  • Physical changes in the brain that leads to continued struggles with other co-occurring disorders.

The California Health Care Almanac’s research is extracted from 2015 and 2016 regarding the prevalence of California drug use. At that time, of the 8% of qualifying Californians, 6.4% struggled with alcohol, 3.3% used illicit drugs, and 0.6% used pain medications. Regarding drug use specifically, the most commonly used was Marijuana at 8.9%, and the second-highest was pain meds coming in at about 1.25%. To learn and understand more, we would encourage you to read the reports more in-depth.

The American Opioid Epidemic

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2018, there were 67,367 deaths due to a drug overdose. Of those overdose deaths, 46,802 involved opioids, 28,400 involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and 14,875 involved prescription opioids. While that number seemed to decrease in 2019 to about 50,000, this national problem with opioids remains ongoing. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) presents some of the most recent statistics on the subject, including:

  • 21% to 29% of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain are misusing them
  • Of those prescribed opioids for chronic pain, between 8% and 12% develop a substance use disorder with opioids
  • Approximately 6% of those who misuse prescription opioids began using heroin, and about 80% of individuals who have used heroin started with prescription opioids

Not all individuals who use prescription opioids become victims of SUD. However, there are a number of personal stories that involve young adults who experience sports injuries, go to the doctors, and are subsequently prescribed opioids for pain management. The number of times that a mundane sports injury leads to issues with substance use is far too many, and this is just a familiar story we too often see. In California specifically, approximately 45% of deaths from drug overdoses involved opioids. There are many people whose stories still have yet to be told, but we can change that by educating and providing treatment to as many individuals as we can.

Alcohol Use

Aside from the ever-present opioid crisis within California and the United States as a whole, another commonly used substance is alcohol. Alcohol use has been plaguing individuals for hundreds of years. The danger with alcohol is that it is so widely used that it can often be more difficult for individuals to recognize and seek treatment for any personal issues with alcohol. It can be easily brushed off as a socially acceptable practice and, therefore, incapable of presenting any real problem.

Additionally, research suggests the concept of subtypes of alcoholism, according to the NIH. One of those subtypes is a functional alcoholic. The NIH claims that 19.5% of U.S. alcoholics are functioning alcoholics. Alcoholics of this variety can maintain jobs and everyday responsibilities. Not only are they sometimes difficult to notice, but it can also be challenging for them to come to terms with their illness as well.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a broad term that deals with a number of struggles with both substances and behaviors. People from all over the United States have become victims of this monstrous disease. In California alone, 8% of people are struggling with addiction and substance use disorders. The next time you walk down the street, pay attention to every twelfth person you see or encounter. That person could be experiencing issues with any number of substances or behaviors. Their struggle could be with prescription drugs, opioids, or alcohol, which are the most common substances individuals struggle with. Additionally, those we pass are just some of those we know who are indeed struggling. Many are battling behind closed doors, individuals too ashamed to ask for help or unsure of where to go. To learn more about dealing with your struggles, we encourage you to call Lakehouse Recovery today at (877) 762-3707.