Heroin Overdose Deaths In Northern California
May 10, 2018
Despite being so close to Mexico, California is fortunate in respect to its drug overdose rate (per capita) compared to other parts of the country. However, it is essential to keep in mind that the states hit hardest by the opioid addiction epidemic are comparatively rural. While California is the 5th largest economy in the world and home to some of the most populous cities, there is part of the state that is vastly different, NorCal; and, much like rural America, heroin and prescription opioid overdose is a frightening problem in the idyllic Redwoods.
Over 750 miles north of beautiful San Juan Capistrano is the seaside city of Eureka, the largest coastal municipality between San Francisco and Portland, OR. The area is so far away from Southern California, and so climatically different you might think you had crossed the northern border into Oregon. But no, what California lacks in width, it makes up for in height. In the north, residents lead quieter less busy lives; imagine a California without a rush hour, once beyond San Francisco the state has a different feel—less golden, greener!
Eureka, like most of the Pacific Northwest, is no stranger to heroin; however, according to The New York Times, in recent years both use and overdose rates look more like states that people most associate with the epidemic, such as Maine and Vermont. Compared to the rest of the Golden State, the average opioid overdose death rate is five times higher in Humboldt County; Eureka is the county seat.
A Long History of Heroin Use
Again, heroin isn’t a drug that is new to the northwest; least of which, IV drug use. Although, what is happening today is drastically worse than what experts saw in past decades, according to the article. Humboldt county’s problem, like much of the nation, was fueled by rampant over-prescribing at rural clinics; when such medication became more challenging to acquire, the heroin supply line stretching from Mexico to Seattle was already in place. Eureka has long been a stop on the route north.
The epidemic in the Redwood forest is made worse by a fledgling economy and rampant homelessness. A tent city in the marshlands, known as the “Devil’s Playground,” was shut down in 2016 by city officials citing health concerns; however, they offered the homeless no alternative, naturally most returned to the city. As a result, syringe liter is now all over the place which has residents up in arms.
Brandie Wilson, the founder of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (needle exchange/addiction resource center), says that she has distributed close to one million clean syringes since 2017 and received back about 94 percent in exchange. Some community members hold the organization responsible for putting the public at risk, despite the fact that clean needles prevent the spread of deadly disease. Today, now “everybody wants to focus on syringes instead of lives,” said Ms. Wilson. She adds:
“We’re just trying to figure out how to keep people alive while we wait for more treatment up here.”
The situation in Humboldt County is the same as it every rural part of the country. Access to addiction treatment services and community support is limited. There are also few employment and housing opportunities to help newly sober people get back on their feet. And, the stigma of addiction prevents people from seeking help even if they can access care.
Mental Health Treatment
If you are struggling with prescription opioids or heroin, please contact Christians Drug Rehab to learn more about our program. Our dedicated team can help you break the cycle of addiction and manage any co-occurring mental illness.