California Efforts Help Minimize Overdose Deaths


California spared deadly effects of opioid crisis, for now…

Limited distribution of fentanyl, and progressive policies for “harm reduction” addiction treatment have helped California to break the trend that the rest of the country is seeing with opioid-related overdose deaths.

As reported in the LA Daily News, deaths from opiates, cocaine and methamphetamines shot up by 35 percent in the United States between the year ending in May 2015 and that ending in May 2017, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But in California and several other Western states, there were no significant changes in the number of deaths, and some states even saw small reductions. In Utah and Oregon, the number of deaths dropped by 3 percent. In Wyoming, it fell 36 percent.

About 4,600 Californians died in each of the two years that were compared, according to the data.

“States that are seeing relatively little fentanyl in their supply, their overdose rates are more or less remaining flat,” said Leo Beletsky, associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University.

But states that have been flooded by fentanyl are seeing overdose rates rise, he said.

Lindsay LaSalle, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for less criminalization of drug use, said some states with stable death rates not only have less fentanyl, but they have adopted policies to protect the health of drug users.

“California has for many decades embraced harm-reduction strategies” that may be limiting drug deaths, LaSalle said. These include needle exchanges that provide drug users with information about how to avoid overdoses, and programs that distribute the overdose reversal drug naloxone to opiate-dependent people, she said.

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To learn more about how California has been successfully addressing the opioid crisis, please visit the LA Daily News.

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