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California Drug Abuse and Addiction:

In 2010-2011, California was one of the top ten states for rates of drug-use in several categories, including: past-month illicit drug use among persons age 12-17; past-month use of illicit drugs other than marijuana among persons age 12-17; past-year cocaine use among persons age 12-17; and illicit drug dependence or abuse among persons age 12-17. Approximately 10.47 percent of California residents reported past-month use of illicit drugs; the national average was 8.82 percent. In 2012, 27 percent of California drug treatment admissions were for marijuana, while 35 percent were for stimulants (including methamphetamine). In 2010, the rate of drug-induced deaths in California was lower than the national average.

Drug Use In California

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides national and state-level data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and mental health in the United States. In the most recent Survey, 10.47 percent of
California residents reported using illicit drugs in the past month. The national average was 8.82 percent. Additionally, 3.53 percent of California residents reported using an illicit drug other than marijuana in the past month (the national average was 3.33 percent.)

California Drug-Induced Deaths

As a direct consequence of drug use, 4,258 persons died in California in 2010. This is compared to the number of persons in California who died from motor vehicle accidents (2,922) and firearms (2,935) in the same year. California drug-induced deaths (11.4 per 100,000 population) were lower than the national rate (12.9 per 100,000).

California Alcohol Facts:


Alcohol use disorder was more prevalent than other types of substance use disorders. Six percent of Californians reported meeting the criteria for dependence on alcohol, compared to 3% for illicit drugs. Substance use disorders were most prevalent among young adults 18 to 25, occurring at nearly twice the state average rate. Use of alcohol and other drugs often begins in adolescence. By 11th grade, more than half of California students have used alcohol and almost 40% have used marijuana. Alcohol accounted for more nonfatal emergency department visits than all other drug diagnoses combined. The number of heroin-related emergency department visits in California more than tripled between 2006 and 2017.

California Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths:

In 2017, there were 2,199 overdose deaths involving opioids in California—a rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 persons, which is lower than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. The main driver of drug overdose deaths were those involving prescription opioids with 1,169 deaths in 2017 (Figure 1). However, the greatest increase in opioid deaths was seen in cases involving synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl): a more than twofold increase from 229 to 536 deaths over the past 2-years. Deaths involving heroin also increased in the same period: from 593 in 2012 to 715 deaths in 2017.

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