California is a vast state with almost 39,000,000 people. About 17 percent of the population lives in poverty. Only 12.5 percent of the people smokes, putting California dead last on the list of states ranked according to the number of smokers. But what about opiate drug treatment in California? How easy is it to find help when you need it?
Mortality Rates from Drug Addiction
Despite its ranking as the number one most populated state in the Union, California does not rank high on the list of deaths from prescription drug addiction. In fact it has the fifteenth lowest rate, with more than 10 deaths per 100,000 people but less than 15. The states with the highest mortality rates include West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, Delaware, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.
But considering that California has more people than any other state, that puts a high number of people at risk. You can expect that somewhere between 3,900,000 and 5,800,000 people will die from prescription drugs. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, which rank 6 and 7 on the population list, such a high number of deaths would mean killing off half the people in each state!
That’s why opiate drug treatment in California must become a priority among the movers and shakers, the people who control the purse strings. At this writing there are 160 programs approved for opiate drug treatment in California listed on the website of the California Department of Healthcare Services. If you click on the link for the provider directory, you can search it by the name of your city or county to find a California opiate drug treatment program near you.
Promising Indicators of Opiate Drug Treatment in California
The TFAH evaluates the states for compliance with ten so-called promising indicators of successful strategies to promote opiate drug treatment, in California and in each and every other state. California ranks high on the list of states, meeting 8 out of 10 indicators.
- The first indicator is the existence of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). A PDMP allows pharmacists and prescribers to monitor prescriptions for controlled substances. If a person shows up at a pharmacy with a prescription for Percocet, for example, the pharmacist can access the PDMP to find out if the person has filled any other pain pill prescriptions from other prescribers at other pharmacies within recent weeks. This cuts down on doctor-shopping among people who go to one doctor with a complaint of back pain and then to a dentist with complaint of a toothache for the sole purpose of obtaining narcotic pain pills. The PDMPs are state-run within each state, and there are only eleven states that do not as of this writing have PDMPs up and running.
- Next, the TFAH looks at each state’s requirements for utilization of the PDMP. It’s one thing to get a PDMP up and running so that prescribers can learn which patients require referral for opiate drug treatment in California and yet another thing if prescribers and pharmacists do not use it. In California, there is no mandatory requirement to utilize the PDMP—one of the two criteria where California fails.
- Despite its failure to mandate use of the PDMP, California has enacted legislation against doctor-shopping. Doctor-shopping describes the same practice as above, in which patients go from one doctor to another with complaints of pain. In fact, all of the states have enacted such legislation.
- The next parameter for successful opiate drug treatment in California is actual financial support for substance abuse treatment services. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, California was among 24 states plus the District of Columbia that expanded Medicaid in order to cover these services. While Medicaid may not provide for every aspect of treatment, it will offset it for those who seek opiate drug treatment in California. Those who earn less than $16,000 per year can receive full Medi-Cal benefits, and there is a program within Medi-Cal known as D-M-C (Drug Medi-Cal). A person initially receives approval for six months of opiate drug treatment in California, including methadone, and they can receive additional blocks of six-month therapy as long as the doctor or counselor submits documentation that the treatment is necessary.
- California is one of 22 states that require prescriber education. That means that doctors and other para-professionals licensed to write narcotic prescriptions become educated about pain medications and also alternative therapies for managing pain.
- California also has passed legislation for a Good Samaritan law so that if you seek help for yourself in the case of an overdose you cannot be prosecuted if authorities find you in possession of drugs or paraphernalia. You also cannot be held liable if you call to help someone else. The TFAH website states that 17 states plus D.C. have enacted this legislation but as of this writing several other states including Texas and Georgia have done so as well.
- California has passed a rescue drug law that expands availability of Narcan or naloxone to reverse opiate overdose. As with the Good Samaritan law, other states have such legislation in progress in addition to the 18 jurisdictions listed on the TFAH website. People who obtain Narcan to utilize in the event of an overdose should be aware that even with Narcan, the victim should be taken to an emergency department for follow-up care. The effects of the Narcan may wear off before the effects of the drug that caused the overdose.
- Physical exam requirements in California and 44 other jurisdictions require any prescriber to perform a physical exam within a certain timeframe of writing a prescription. This includes everyone from family doctors to the physicians who provide opiate drug treatment in California.
- The ID requirement is the second parameter that California does not meet. Pharmacists are not required to ask for identification before they dispense a controlled substance. California is one of 19 jurisdictions that fail at this parameter.
- Lock-in programs have been established in 47 jurisdictions, including California, that restrict how many or which pharmacies a consumer can utilize. Those suspected of doctor-shopping, for example, would be locked into pharmacies that would decrease the likelihood of substance abuse.
Ultimately, it’s up to each and every individual to decide if he or she wants to seek opiate drug treatment in California. No matter how many laws are enacted within the state, or no matter how carefully the opiate treatment programs follow regulations of agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the person has to want change in order to succeed. If you’re feeling as if your pain pill prescriptions are controlling your life—or if you’ve already begun shooting up heroin—then it’s time to contact your local program for opiate drug treatment in California. Programs and funding are available; the rest is up to you.