The current state of substance-related hospitalization and overdose in Orange County
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When an individual thinks about drugs or alcohol, he or she may hold a particular perspective or bias depending on personal circumstances. For those still in the midst of an abusive or addictive relationship with a substance, one’s association may be limited to the rewards that drugs and alcohol provide. A number of side effects may go overlooked due to these limited viewpoints. In direct contrast, medical scholars and clinicians may only concern themselves with finding the best forms of treatment for these serious dependencies. To effectively prevent and protect people from overdosing on these substances, local communities, such as Orange County, need to collaborate and help those afflicted see the seriousness of substance abuse side effects. It is only with a unified mindset that a wave of substantial change is possible.

In the most recent collection of data amassed by the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA), the latest statistics regarding the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse do not inspire much optimism. The 2014 analysis references the county’s annual records of hospital admissions due to alcohol or drug related incidents, which is comprised of over 10,000 residents from Fullerton to San Clemente. Overall, the destructive, substance-related trends show no signs of slowing down.

The volume of hospitalizations due to drug overdoses is cause for concern. Roughly 28 percent of those brought to a hospital in Orange County suffered from some form of poisoning by illicit drugs, prescription medications or other biological substances. The most common culprits were benzodiazepine and other opioids. Benzodiazepines, well-known through brand names such as Valium and Xanax, are pharmaceuticals that are taken for their sedative, anti-anxiety and muscle relaxant properties during the course of recovery. While a regulated and temporary pattern of use is deemed generally safe, the nature of the drug’s chemical impact may lead to psychological and physical dependences. Opioids like Morphine, although intended for treating acute and chronic pain, can also be misused and abused for the rush of euphoria and other associated benefits.

As a person continues using a substance in excessive amounts, he or she will experience more significant symptoms of withdrawal and tolerance. As the doses increase and get more potent, the risk of overdose becomes greater. Specifically, the rate of all drug and alcohol overdose fatalities increased by a noticeable 51 percent in Orange County. Slight variations exist between specific substances, as drug overdoses significantly outnumber alcohol-related deaths. Unfortunately, both harmful habits are all too familiar to too many families.

Certain cases of substance-related hospitalizations and overdoses revealed that regardless of the person’s reasons for ingesting, prescribed medications were the most common causes of overdose. For those in the OC area who intended to overdose or commit suicide, a dominating 82 percent of surveyed participants resorted to prescription drugs. Furthermore, 47 percent of all accidental overdoses can be attributed to prescriptions when compared to illicit drugs.

Another interesting conclusion from the study is that the most at-risk and heavily treated demographics typically live in the coastal and southern cities of the county. While the specific reasons for why this is were not deeply explored, this may simply suggest that the resources required to develop an abusive or addictive relationship are more readily available at these locations. Easy access to these substances can occur via weakly regulated pharmacies or more established networks of drug dealers.

In terms of other underserved demographics, people between the ages of 45 and 54 tend to overdose the most. However, the developmental period with the most cases is widely contested. After evaluating cultural backgrounds, Non-Hispanic Whites showed the most prevailing trends of hospitalization and overdose. Specific numbers include:

  • 29.4 per 10,000 hospitalized respondents were between the ages of 45 and 54
  • 40.1 per 100,000 overdoses occurred between the ages of 45 and 54
  • 32.2 per 10,000 of hospitalized respondents were White
  • 30.2 per 100,000 of overdoses were prevalent in White populations

Orange County’s Health Care Agency is a regional provider that has taken on the role of protecting and promoting individual, family and community health through the coordination of public and private sector resources. Services encompass the domains of administration and finance as well as the realms of behavioral, correctional, medical and public health. In addition to providing this wide-ranging support to individual clients, the agency’s highest concern is the health and safety of the community as a whole.

As Orange County continues to grow, it’s attracting a natural element of diversity within its boundaries, both in age and culture. The Health Care Agency anticipates changes in populations so that their services continue to meet the needs of each community.

Sovereign Health Group has a similar commitment to the cause, upholding a standard of quality care when particular cases slip through these preventive plans. If you or someone you know  is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, mental health disorders or co-occurring conditions, you can contact Sovereign to get the help you need today. To chat with a representative please call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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