Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Drugs and Treatment in Santa Maria, California

Santa Maria is a city located in Santa Barbara County, near the southern coast of California. Located approximately 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, it is the most populous city in Santa Barbara County with an estimated population of 103,410 residents. Due to its mild, climate, Santa Maria is home to a number of wineries and vineyards. Route 101 runs through the center of Santa Maria, acting as the primary freeway which connects a myriad of major west coast cities. The 101 has recently been widened to accept even more traffic. Santa Maria is home to a small public airport served by a single airline – Allegiant Air – which offers service to Las Vegas three days a week. While Santa Maria may be most well known for its Mediterranean climate and specialized style of Barbecue, it is not untouched by the nations opioid and drug epidemic.

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

Despite there being limited traffic in and out of Santa Maria, there have been recent incidences reported of Methamphetamine trafficking and opioid overdoses. Earlier this month, two Santa Maria men were reportedly arrested in the culmination of a methamphetamine trafficking investigation conducted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Department. Other recent headlines report that nine residents of neighboring city Isla Vista overdosed on prescription opioids at a fraternity party.

Santa Maria is located just outside of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug trafficking Area, or HIDTA which runs between Sacramento and Kern County in Central California.

It may be assumed that since Santa Barbara County is relatively wealthy, there wouldn’t be a prevalence of substance abuse. This assumption is incredibly and increasingly inaccurate. For starters, while Santa Barbara County is ranked among the wealthiest counties in California, approximately 15 percent of residents live at or below the poverty level (including 20 percent of residents younger than 18 years old). Additionally, illicit substances, especially those such as prescription opiates, aren’t limited to those living in low-income areas. On the contrary, prescription pain killers are expensive and difficult to get a hold of for those on a limited income. Anyone can succumb to opiate addiction, regardless of income level, age, class, sex or race.

From Prescriptions to Street Drugs

The evolution of the heroin epidemic, both in Santa Barbara and around the US has been attributed to the increasing number of those who become addicted to legally prescribed opiate pain killers, and have moved on to cheaper, more available illegal street opiates such as heroin. It is estimated that 75% of young adults that become addicted to heroin or synthetic opiates, start with prescription opiates such as Oxycodone. Then, when the prescription is no longer accessible or becomes too expensive, they switch to a cheaper alternative such as heroin, which can be easier to find.

Due to the ultra-addictive qualities of heroin and prescription opiates, with the rise of abuse comes the rise of overdose deaths and hospitalizations. Santa Barbara County ranked sixth per capita in heroin overdoses leading to hospitalization in 2015, seeing a 983% rise in overdoses in the decade between 2005-2015. While Los Angeles County saw the most heroin overdoses in the state overall, it ranked below Santa Barbara County when looking at per capita data. It has been reported that opioid/heroin users account for 30% of those seeking drug treatment in Santa Barbara County.

While no demographic is untouched by the opioid epidemic, statistics show that heroin abuse is rising fastest in people age 20 to 39 in Santa Maria.

There are certain telltale signs to look for if you think someone you know may be using opiates, including:

  • Drowsiness/drifting to sleep at inappropriate times, aka “nodding”
  • Confusion
  • Marked euphoria/elation
  • Slow breathing
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Social isolation
  • Needle marks or “tracks”

While heroin and prescription pain killers may be the most fatal, addictive substances being abused in Santa Maria, other substances commonly abused, including alcohol and marijuana, have also seen a rise. Young adults are the most frequent users of illicit substances in this area.

Alcohol Abuse

Santa Barbara County data shows that alcohol abuse is at an all-time high. In fact, auto collisions involving alcohol which killed or injured people is significantly higher than the rest of the state, ranking the second highest out of 58 counties. In 2015, there were a total of 176 collisions in which victims were either injured or killed and alcohol was involved. The demographic most involved in alcohol-related collisions were young adults between 21-34 years old.

Traffic collisions aren’t the only dangers involved with alcohol abuse. Santa Barbara County saw almost twice as many alcohol related ER visits per capita as the rest of the state. In addition, local alcohol related arrests are also higher than state average by almost 2x. It has been postulated that the prevalence of alcohol abuse in Santa Maria and greater Santa Barbara County is the accessibility of alcohol in the area and the foundation of alcohol consumption in the tourism industry in the area, including wineries, vineyards, happy hours, and nearly 1,300 alcohol retailers in the county.

While drinking can be considered a “normal” part of many American’s lives, excessive drinking poses many issues to a persons health and well being. Aside from risks such as drunk driving collisions which can be fatal or cause injury to the driver, other passengers, and/or innocent bystanders; prolonged or excessive drinking can also have lasting effects on the drinkers job, home life, finances, and physical health. Some things to look for if you think you or someone you know may have an issue with alcohol abuse include:

  • An unusually high alcohol tolerance
  • Sneaking, lying about consumption or hiding alcohol
  • Increasing irritability / irrational mood swings
  • Avoiding situations in which alcohol is prohibited
  • Showing up inebriated at inappropriate times
  • Engaging in risky behavior such as drunk driving

There is help for those caught up in alcohol abuse. Give us a call for help in finding a treatment that’s right for you.

Marijuana Abuse

According to a 2014 survey, 12% of 9th graders and 18% of kids in 11th grade reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, and nearly 20% of 9th graders  and over 35% of 11th graders reported using marijuana at least once in their young lives. 11th graders – juniors in high school –  reported that they believe it is “very easy” to obtain marijuana. Of the marijuana arrests in Santa Barbara County in 2014, 67 misdemeanors and 20 felony arrests were made of youth ages 10-17. 267 young people were admitted into drug treatment for marijuana use during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, compared to 28 alcohol incidences, 23 methamphetamine incidences, and 3 other opiate incidences, indicating it is the drug of choice of this demographic.

Warning signs of Marijuana abuse include:

  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Slowed movement
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry “cotton” mouth
  • Confusion
  • Laughing at inappropriate times
  • Insatiable hunger
  • Paranoia

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, we can help get you on the road to recovery. Keep reading, then contact us for more information about treatment available in your area.

What to Expect in Drug and Alcohol Treatment

There are various steps involved in addiction treatment and recovery. Having knowledge of them can help just about anyone understand how treatment is done. Here is a list of FAQ about rehab to look over. 

No matter the substance or substances being used, it is possible to have a happy, healthy life after addiction. The road to recovery can be long and takes many forms, but there are certain steps you can count on in the process.

While every treatment facility is slightly different, there are certain commonalities you can expect when starting the road to recovery.


The first step of any substance abuse or addiction treatment program is assessing the individuals relationship to the substance to determine whether addiction is present, and to what degree. A  rehabilitation professional will ask a series of questions to better understand their individual needs. During the evaluation, a healthcare professional may examine any physical or psychological symptoms which may have developed as a result of substance abuse. The professional may also ask probing questions in order to gather a list of symptoms that the affected person displays. The professional can then evaluate the results whether or not an individual is partially or fully addicted to one or more substances. You can find drug & alcohol assessments online, but it is recommended to also have one conducted by a professional.
After the assessment, the treatment professional(s) can advise on the most appropriate treatment method for the individual. The questions asked during assessment help them know the addiction treatment required and whether you or your family members have any co-occurring disorders that resulted from or contribute to the addiction.


Before admittance to a rehabilitation center, patients may undergo pre-intake procedures. The process typically involves an intake manager documenting the patients’ history with drug use frequency and length, and recording signs and symptoms of the substance abuse. In some cases, a physician may conduct a physical exam, or tests may be run to establish the amount of substance or substances in the patients’ body. Family members may also be consulted to give information, support, and recommendations for providing  the best care for the addicted family member, as well as themselves. After obtaining these details, the rehabilitation professional can determine whether the patient  treatment admission as an inpatient or outpatient care is recommended.


Once a patient is admitted to substance abuse treatment, it is necessary to undergo detox. Detox is the process of ridding the body of harmful and illicit substances. Many substance abusers fall victim to addiction because the process of detoxing is accompanied by incredibly uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms. The process is different for each person, and varies depending on the substance(s) used, length, and duration of use, and progression of addiction, as well as the persons overall physical and mental health. While some find they’re able to detox from substances at home on their own, it’s recommended to undergo detox while in the care of a rehabilitation or medical care professional. Those who undergo supervised and assisted detox have increased chances of remaining sober. Remaining under the care of a trained detox professional in a drug-free environment can also make the detox process easier and more comfortable both physically and psychologically easing the withdrawal symptoms and reducing temptation and ability to relapse, setting the stage for a long-term sober living situation. Some detox facilities use prescription medication to alleviate some of the harsher side effects of withdrawal, particularly in the cases of drugs such as opiates.

What is withdrawal? How long does it last?


Opiate withdrawal typically begins within 6-12 hours after last use and lasts 5-10 days, peaking around the 2-3 day mark.

Opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Pain in the bones and muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Shakes
  • Chills
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Cramps
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme craving for the drug

Depending on the facility, a patient in detox may be treated with buprenorphine (Suboxone) to alleviate some of the stronger withdrawal symptoms and ease them into sober living, often increasing odds of continued sobriety.


Anyone who has spent a night on the town has experienced a hangover, but withdrawal from alcohol after prolonged and excessive use can make that look like a walk in the park. Alcohol withdrawal typically begins around 8 hours after the last drink, lasting 5-7 days or longer and peak around the 24-72 hour mark. Alcohol withdrawal typically comes in three stages:

Stage One:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Abdominal Pain

Stage Two:

  • Increased Body Temperature
  • Unusual Heart Rate
  • Confusion
  • Shakes
  • Raised Blood Pressure
  • Moodiness

Stage Three:

  • Delirium Tremens
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
    It is highly recommended to detox from alcohol under the care of professionals, as it can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening to do alone.


There are two main forms of treatment: Inpatient and Outpatient. Inpatient treatments are more intensive forms of care, supplying patients with round-the-clock care in either a hospital or treatment facility. Some inpatient treatment programs are luxury facilities that operate more like a spa or resort. Whatever form of treatment you settle on will likely involve several hours of group and/or individual therapy, and may include physical exercise and spiritual programs as well. Many treatments focus on dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorders to get to the root of addiction and provide you with tools to cope after treatment. 


Residential Treatment Centers, or RTC’s are the most intensive form of Inpatient treatment, and are often recommended for those addicted to opiates such as heroin or other addictive drugs like meth or crack cocaine. RTC’s are most successful in detoxing and rehabilitating those with substance addictions. Residential Treatment Centers are live-in facilities which provide safe, supportive, drug-free living environments, away from work, family, and friends, allowing the patient to focus solely on their recovery.

While enrolled in an RTC, the patient may be expected to take part in group and individual therapy, including 12 step programs. There may also be specialized therapy for co-occurring illnesses, family or relationship counseling, psychiatric visits, spiritual sessions such as prayer or meditation practices, and physical exercise. The duration of RTC’s vary from 30 days to 12 months, depending on a myriad of factors including insurance coverage and patient needs. Contact with the outside world is usually limited to ensure immersion in recovery and the removal of temptation and stress that often leads to relapse.


Partial Hospitalization Programs are similar to RTC’s, although the patient has the ability to return home in the evenings. Most PHPs involve individual and group therapy, as well as 12-step meetings for 6-8 hours per day, 5 days a week until the program is completed. These programs are a good option for those with safe, supportive home environments, or those who are unable to attend inpatient programs for financial or other reasons. PHP programs can also be an aftercare stepping-stone option for those who have already attended an RTC.

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

Outpatient treatment options vary from facility to facility, but often offer more freedom than inpatient treatments. These treatment options can be less successful at maintaining recovery, and see a higher relapse rate. Outpatient treatment programs can be a good option for those who are fully committed to kicking addiction once and for all, or who have previously attended inpatient treatments and seek continued help. They are also a great option for those who cannot step away from their daily life for an extended period of time, but still need help kicking addiction. Many outpatient programs offer the ability to continue one’s day-to-day life with minimal adjustments, involving a few hours of individual or group therapy per week. Those who participate in outpatient treatments must have a strong will and be disciplined to change their addictive behaviors. Outpatient programs can also be an option for those seeking additional therapy after completing an inpatient program.


Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) offer the structured support of inpatient therapy, with the independence of an outpatient program. Typical outpatient programs consist of 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy per week, allowing the individual to continue their daily obligations with minimal interruption, attending school or work during the day and seeking counseling in the mornings or at night as is appropriate. IOP programs work best when the patient has already attended a detox facility, and are a good aftercare option for those who have already attended a more intensive form of inpatient therapy.


Upon completion of a substance abuse treatment program, an aftercare program is recommended to maintain sobriety. Aftercare programs provide continuing support to recovering addicts in an effort to prevent relapse and integrate skills learned in treatment into their daily lives. Quality aftercare programs address the patients relationships, childcare, housing and financial situations, legal situations, employment opportunities, medical needs and mental health. Aftercare programs might include 12-step program attendance, one-on-one support, specialized therapy sessions to address co-occuring illnesses, and family or group therapy sessions. If methadone, buprenorphine, or other medications were used to treat withdrawal symptoms or for the duration of treatment, the prescription may be revisited, and you may be weened off during this phase.

What happens after discharge?


Whether you’ve completed an inpatient program or participating in an outpatient program, sober living can provide you with structure and support while you recover from addiction and integrate back into society. Sober living homes are clean living environments in which residents are all in staged of addiction recovery. Some sober living homes are staffed, while others thrive on peer support from other residents.
Sober living environments typically have rules and guidelines in place to ensure the continued sobriety and relapse prevention of it’s residents. These rules may include a curfew and required random drug testing, a “no sleepover” rule, and mandatory or suggested 12-step meetings to name a few. You may need to work and complete chores around the house. You may be required to pay rent or contribute to the sober living home or community in other ways.

Sober living environments are a good way to transition back into day-to-day life. Living among other people who share your struggles and challenges can give you support as you navigate through work and family life.The rules in a sober living community provide structure, and contributing to the household can give you a sense of purpose and community. Having others around that are also in the addiction recovery process can be helpful for those who may otherwise be tempted to return to friends, family members, or living situations that may tempt them to use again.

Now that you know what to expect, give us a call to start your journey to recovery.