California Officials Carefully Monitoring Opioid Usage

Compared to the rest of the nation, California’s rate of death from opioid overdose has remained low, with only 11 people in 100,000 dying compared to West Virginia, where a staggering 41 out of every 100,000 residents died from overdose in 2015.

However, parts of the state, particularly rural communities in the north – are starting to see serious spikes in overdoses.

According to the LA Times – opioid death rates in many parts of the state, including Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Bernardino counties, remain relatively low. But last year, 10 mostly rural counties in the state’s extreme north had more opioid prescriptions than residents, a red flag for public health researchers.

In some of those regions, death rates are just as high as in the most impacted states.

“If California were divided up into several states … then parts of our state, principally the north, would be a disaster area as bad as West Virginia,” said Dr. Kelly Pfeifer, an opioid expert at Oakland-based California Health Care Foundation.

Some officials believe that the type of heroin used in California, called “black tar” – may be helping spare users from the more potent forms like fentanyl being added to doses.

Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a UC San Francisco professor who studies heroin usage explains that “black tar heroin simply can’t be cut as easily with fentanyl”.

Other studies have seemed to indicate that easier access to marijuana keeps people off of opioids. For now, California health officials are glad to be spared the worst of this epidemic.

Read more at LA Times.

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