Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation in Santa Clarita, California

Santa Clarita, the fourth largest city in Los Angeles County, California has a population of 181,557 people. It is located just 35 miles from Los Angeles and is widely known for two tourist attractions that can be found outside of the city’s border, Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park and Stevenson Ranch. It’s also known to be a back drop for many TV shows and movies.

California as a whole is widely about self-image. If you learn only one thing about California it’s this, “People do not seem to age there.” That’s because California has the secret to looking 30 when you’re actually 60. It’s a lot of pressure though, staying young and fit. Keeping up with the latest trends must be exhausting when they seem to change on a weekly basis. Perhaps, the pressure of staying youthful and fit is too much. It could in fact, create a nationwide epidemic. What if it already has?

Drug abuse stats are higher than they’ve ever been in the past. Opioids are on everyone’s radar on some level or another. If someone isn’t taking them, they know someone who is. The number of addicts grows year after year and along with it, is the increase of opioid overdoses. In one of Santa Clarita’s hospitals, an ER doctor admitted to seeing at least 15-20 overdoses every month that come in by ambulance.

If you live in Santa Clarita, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

While drugs like cocaine, crack, ecstasy, etc., are easy to find on the streets of Santa Clarita, it is opioids like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl that are causing the drug epidemic that is sweeping across America. Opiate addiction for most people comes from a prescription from a doctor. It starts with some pain meds being prescribed due to surgery or some sort of accident. From there, people who are still in pain will ask for another prescription to help with it. Doctors prescribe another one and a struggle with addiction begins. Sure, this doesn’t happen with every person. People are built differently so where one person might become addicted, some people just never do.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is the most popular opioid to buy because it’s cheap and it doesn’t require a prescription. A bag of heroin on the street can cost $5 whereas a bottle of oxycodone can cost $80. In California, over three-month period 412 adults (ages 20-29) were taken to the ER due to heroin use in 2016. The number has doubled since 2012. In Los Angeles County 237 adults (ages 20-29) were taken to the ER in 2016 for heroin poisoning.

Heroin is extremely addictive and is sold in the form of white or brown powder, solid black chunks or a black sticky substance referred to as tar heroin. It can be injected, snorted or smoked.

Heroin has several pleasurable feelings:

  • A calm/warm feeling
  • A heaviness of the arms and/or legs
  • Increased sense of confidence and well-being
  • A surge of pleasurable feelings that many refer to as a “rush”

The Cycle of Addiction

As for those suffering from addiction, it comes in a cycle.

  • Initial Use– This is the “meet and greet” phase. A person takes the recommended amount, finishes their prescription and is done.
  • Abuse– This being a step further than that “meet and greet” phase is when a person chooses to use more than the recommended amount and/or uses it real fast and needs another refill.
  • Tolerance– This part of the cycle occurs when the pain meds being abused are not working like they once were and therefore, a person who addicted has to take more to do the same job as before. The body starts to tolerate the drugs.
  • Dependence– Now the body needs the drugs so that the pleasure feeling can be obtained. Without it, the body is not able to function properly.
  • Addiction– This is a chronic mental health disorder that is diagnosed through a series of different symptoms
    • Craving a substance
    • Spending time looking for the substance verses working or spending time with friends
    • A reduction in hobbies that was once enjoyed
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drug is not being used.
  • Relapse-This part of the cycle occurs when a person has become sober either through their own unique path to recovery or through rehabilitation. Relapse occurs when a person has started abusing drugs again after a time of being sober.

It is hard to narrow down the exact cause of drug addiction because there are many causes and since everyone is different, the reason can change from person to person. Typically, unemployment, poor housing and crime play a huge role in drug use within a city. For Santa Clarita, crime scores a 38 out 100, which is good compared to other large cities. The unemployment rate comes in at 4.4 percent and the median level income is at $83,178 which are signs of a healthy economy. For Santa Clarita, the drug addiction issue doesn’t appear to stem from the economy.

Possible Factors for Drug Addiction

  • Genetic PredispositionThis factor is built genetically from birth, having been inherited by one parent or the other.
  • Addictive PersonalityGoing based on the fact that people are different, some do have addictive tendencies while others do not. That is why some people can pick up and quit smoking fairly easy and some people can’t.
  • Psychological- Stress, anxiety, depression, other mental health and eating disorders can lead to drug addiction
  • Environmental- Physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse can lead toward drug abuse, which in turn can lead to addiction.

Addiction occurs when the body gets used to having something. Drugs are just one addiction, there are many different types from alcohol to food to sex. When a person feels the euphoria that whatever they are addicted to provides, it becomes imperative to recreate that feeling over and over again. Sadly, with addiction, once the high wears off one is left feeling empty and sad which creates another reason to get high once again.

Why Addiction Affects Some and Not Others

Some people are easily addicted to drugs while others are not and there are three primary reasons for that.

  • Biology– Genes play an important role in addiction as well as ethnicity, gender and mental disorders.
  • Development-Drugs can be taken at any age but there are circumstances where age plays a huge factor in whether or not a person becomes addicted. For example, if a person starts abusing drugs as a teenager they have a higher chance of becoming an addict verses using drugs at a later date. This information is based on the areas of the brain that haven’t yet matured fully in a teen such as: judgement, decision-making and self-control.
  • Environment- A person’s environment has a huge role to play in whether or not someone becomes addicted. Peer pressure, sexual abuse, physical abuse, general quality of life, economic status, lack of parental guidance, early exposure to drugs and stress are all influences on drug addiction.

Education and Awareness

Drug education and awareness is what is needed to help. Drugs are not going anywhere, they have been around for thousands of years. Opium, the poppy that opiates come from has been around for thousands of years. It has been used to help alleviate pain in forms of morphine, codeine, hydrocodone etc. Drugs lose their power over people when education and awareness is more widespread.


While Santa Clarita prides their city on their ability to take action and not sweep drugs under the rug, the drug problem within the city is still driving percentages higher and higher. Rehabilitation is the answer for drug abuse but too many people become addicted and believe they cannot change it. Therefore, people continue to let addiction control their lives. Teens are becoming addicted to heroin and are dying on a daily basis due to an overdose. Education and awareness needs to be mainstream for teens. Social media is a great outlet for teenagers because they are always getting the newest trend to try from other’s. Teaching drug awareness through social media would provide the fastest results to teens. Unfortunately, there lies another issue. Social media is also a cause for drug addiction. In a state where being fit and staying young is so popular, teens feel the pressure as they grow up. With the internet being at teen’s fingertips, it doesn’t take any time at all to realize that social media is just one big bully. Teens are degrading each other and downing one’s body image is only part of it. “That’s gay” or “you’re so dumb” gets dropped on thousands of social media threads daily. The pressure is much higher than it was in the 80’s and 90’s where all you had to worry about was the bullies at school.

Signs of Drug Addiction

Educating and raising awareness can help people to reach out for help instead of believing that they have no other choice. It starts with learning what drug addiction looks like.

  • Cravings-This is the first sign to any type of addiction. A person will crave it, which means they are usually thinking and talking about whatever they are addicted to.
  • Dependence-Over a period of using a drug, one can build up a tolerance for it which usually means they need more of it to get their high.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms- This is a big one. If a person is getting high from drugs and has become addicted, they will start to have some withdrawal symptoms when they cannot afford to get high or cannot find someone to buy from.
    • Symptoms:
      • Headaches
      • Drug cravings
      • Nausea/vomiting
      • Runny Nose
      • Anxiety/depression/agitation
      • Seizures
      • Insomnia
      • Muscle pain/tension
      • Violent outbursts
      • Hallucinations
    • Financial Trouble-This isn’t always a sign because a lot of people have financial trouble. However, when someone is always draining their bank account with little to show for it such as unpaid bills or no new items, it could mean that the money is going toward drugs.
    • Unhealthy Friendships- When people are addicted to drugs, chances are they start to develop some friendships with people who have similar habits, like drugs.
    • Isolation- People who are addicted to drugs need plenty of time alone so they can do their drugs. Family and friends are put off which could lead to depression, anxiety and paranoia, if isolation goes on too long.

The Process of Rehabilitation

Education and awareness also means telling people about rehabilitation which sounds much scarier than it actually is. Rehabilitation is not like it was years ago, it can even be thought of as a spa. In fact, some are designed around the idea of a spa to help residents to feel more comfortable during their stay.

The first step in the rehabilitation process is to get an assessment. Assessments, sometimes called pre-intake’s or intake is a series of questions that are used to help the staff at a facility find out if a person has an addiction and what sort of treatment should be offered to provide the most efficient recovery. A lab test, specifically a urine test is taken to find out what drugs a person has taken. Financial arrangements are made during the assessment period as well as an item checklist. There are certain items that are not allowed in the facility.

Some items not allowed:

  • Mouthwash
  • Large amounts of cash
  • Electronics
  • Food/drinks
  • Bed linens or pillows
  • Pornography
  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Revealing clothing

The second step in the rehabilitation process in detox. This is the part that usually puts the most anxiety in people because it can be a hard thing to experience. Detox cleanses drugs from the body so a person has the best chance to heal their body and mind. Some of the withdrawal symptoms previously mentioned above can occur during this process. However, a patient is always supervised and a doctor can prescribe a medication if the symptoms become too severe.

The third step in the rehabilitation process is inpatient and outpatient treatment. This is the meat and potatoes part of the process because it deals with healing the mind. What is taught during this part of the process will be useful for the rest of one’s recovery, which is a life-long thing. Inpatient treatment, known as Residential Treatment Center (RTC) takes place in a facility and usually lasts up to 28 days. Some RTC programs can last shorter or even longer. RTC helps patients to find out more about their addiction while also using things like meditation, yoga, art and group therapy to heal patients. Trigger points are also taught throughout RTC. These are the little points that cause an eruption of negative feelings that can lead to drug use. 

Outpatient treatment, known as Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) are treatment options typically used after a patient is released from RTC. PHP takes place at a facility for 6 hours a day, 5-7 days a week and is focused on managing one’s sobriety outside of RTC. Using coping skills to deal with trigger points is a main focus point in PHP.  Coping skills can be anything that helps to calm a person so that they won’t use drugs: painting, drawing, meditation, yoga, riding a horse, or some other type of hobby.  IOP is the last step in outpatient treatment. IOP can take place in a facility or a different building for 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. It is more focused on group therapy, just like the type of therapy that takes place in support groups. It’s a pre-cursor for life after outpatient treatment.

The final step in the rehabilitation process is aftercare. Aftercare is what comes after one has been released from RTC, PHP and IOP. Support groups is a huge part of aftercare because they help to avoid a relapse. Relapses happen most often because people are alone after going through rehab. While in rehab, a patient has structure. They are given therapy and activities to complete during certain time periods. When a patient has been released, that structure is no longer there and it can be hard to adjust to regular life again. It can even provide a ton of stress and pressure, which can lead to drug use. Support groups can provide enough support and guidance to keep a person from returning back to drugs.

Aftercare also involves the management of trigger points while also using coping skills to help prevent a relapse. It is also important to keep busy while recovering and many people pick up a new hobby, go back to school or even start a business. It’s just important to take one’s time when it comes to these things because hobbies shouldn’t be stressors. Stressors can easily lead to a relapse. Meditation and yoga are great ways to reduce stress. Meditation teaches people how to breathe while clearing the mind and it is very refreshing. Yoga is not only great for exercise and stretching, it is also helpful in clearing out chakras, which can lead to bad stress in the body as well as body and mind ailments. Both yoga and meditation teach a process of breathing that helps one’s body to slow down. This can prevent stress build-up, which will often lead to anxiety or depression and both of those things can lead to a relapse. There are many websites and apps located online that teach the art of yoga and meditation.

Some people feel the pressure before leaving rehab and decide to live in a halfway house or a sober living house. These houses provide some structure while also allowing people to create a firm foot. Usually residents will pay a monthly fee to stay in the house and they don’t have to worry about utilities. There are other residents in the house as well, which is important to build up one’s social skills. These houses have rules so it is important to follow the rules or a resident can lose their place in the house. However, these rules are highly strict so as long as one doesn’t bring alcohol or drugs into the house or mistreat the other residents, there shouldn’t be any problems.

What to Do If You Know Someone Is Using Drugs

It can be extremely hard to watch someone else go through addiction that you care about but there are some things that can be done.

  • Educate yourself- Learning about addiction and the process of it can be very rewarding when the topic is brought up in conversation. So, learn about the signs, the treatment and what best approach might work to intervene.
  • Make a list- When talking to someone about addiction, the discussion can seem one-sided which might lead to a heated argument. It’s important to make a list of topics to discuss in an effort to stay on topic.
  • Stay positive-Positivity will always win over negativity even though negativity seems heavier. Being positive can really help the conversation go further and might even convince a friend, family member or co-worker to go to rehab.
  • Never use guilt-trips-Guilt trips like “If you love me, you’ll go to rehab” or “Do it for the kids” are not helpful during this time and threats are even less helpful. Guilt-trips and threats generally only lead to refusals and ultimately, addicts will return back to their drugs.

Drugs have always been a part of society. From medicinal purposes to recreational purposes, drugs will always be around. Education and awareness about these drugs could help save lives while also creating a better future for the generation that is growing up now and in the future. When teens are getting hooked on drugs and dying by the hundreds, it’s time to make a change. Rehabilitation can’t save everyone all at once but word-of-mouth can. Awareness is what needs to happen to change drug abuse now and in the future. If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs, don’t enable them or yourself to continue using drugs. Don’t wait. Get help today.

How can families and friends help someone needing treatment?