Heroin, methamphetamine use drive rise in local overdoses

Lack of residential treatment options add to problem, Sacramento officials told

Drug and alcohol deaths and hospitalizations spiked between 2011 and 2013 locally, especially in two categories.

Fatal opiate overdoses numbered 126 in 2013, representing more than half of all substance-related deaths and an 83 percent increase since 2011. Amphetamine-related deaths rose 89 percent in two years, to 66 in 2013.

Nonfatal emergency room visits for amphetamine users increased 85 percent, while ER visits for opioid users jumped 28 percent. By comparison, the average increase was 13 percent for all users at ERs.

The trend didn’t carry over to hospitalizations, where 56 percent of substance-related hospitalizations were due to alcohol.

These findings were contained in a report that the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors received on January 26, and show that the area hasn’t gone untouched by a resurgent heroin epidemic that has infiltrated the suburbs. While the Affordable Care Act has allowed the county to dedicate more funding to fighting substance abuse through contract awards and medication-assisted treatment—totaling almost $49 million this year—there is a dearth of residential treatment options, including none for youth. The county contracts with a provider that’s interested in opening one, but sustainable funding is an obstacle, the report says.

More recent data shows addiction trends continuing. Between July and October 2015, 27 percent of people admitted to the county Mental Health Treatment Center’s Intake Stabilization Unit tested positive for amphetamines and 7 percent for opiates.

But, the report states, “It is important to note that these data represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and do not provide a complete picture of the drug abusers who do not seek care.”