Addiction Problems and Recovery Solutions in Santa Rosa, California
Santa Rosa is a drug trafficking area still coming to grips with the opioid addiction epidemic. Fortunately the struggling law enforcement and medical communities are managing to make great strides in catching up with it.
Wine, Agriculture, and Great Weather
Santa Rosa is the county seat of Sonoma County, in Northern California. Surrounded by California wine country, the city has a wonderful agricultural ambience that attracts tourists, artists, retirees, professionals, and young people.
With a population that rests at around half a million people, the average annual salary is around $50,000—close to the national average. The city includes the neighborhoods of Fountain Grove, South Park, Roseland, and the Ridgway Historic District, among others.
Gangs, Drug Trafficking, and Reckless Prescribing
Sonoma County is a High Density Drug Trafficking area (HIDTA), as are several nearby counties, and the town is no stranger to gang activity. Members of Sureños and Norteños can be found doing business across the city, and drug-related crime is common.
But then Sonoma County and the state of California aren’t the best contexts for sober, drug-free living. Some rather disheartening statistics point out that in 2014 one out of every four of the county’s denizens were prescribed at least one opioid, some four or more. A study from last year showed that in some counties in California the number of painkiller prescriptions written outnumbered the inhabitants. It isn’t so surprising then that more Californians die of drug overdoses than are murdered or die in car accidents.
Even sadder news is that every year in Sonoma County around 25 babies—twice the national average—enter this world addicted to prescription medications.
In April of 2017 the Sonoma County Coroner’s office sent out a warning that there had been a sudden jump in heroin overdose deaths—five within a ten-day span—in the Santa Rosa area alone. The city has been well acquainted with heroin for years, so this event lead law enforcers to suspect that perhaps a tainted batch had been making the rounds. One big cause for concern was the fact that drug dealers will occasionally mix heroin with fentanyl, a prescription drug known to be even more toxic than heroin itself; a combination of the two is nearly always lethal.
Alcoholism in Wine Country
The rate of heavy drinking in California is about the same as the national average but it does look like it’s on the rise. And with the current concentration of public and private resources dealing with the opioid crisis, liquor laws may be weakly enforced. Teen alcohol dependency in California is a little higher than in the rest of the country.
Why has Santa Rosa been designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)?
The HIDTA grant program was developed by Congress as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, in order to ensure that specific law enforcement resources reached the parts of the country that needed them most. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) determines which counties are in need of the program.
There are now 28 HIDTAs, which comprise 18 percent of all counties in the United States. Because most of these HIDTA counties are in highly populated urban areas, their residents make up 66 percent of the American population.
The goal of the HIDTA program is to cut down on drug trafficking and drug production in the U.S. They address the problem by:
- Coordinating activities and communication between all levels of law enforcement
- Collecting intelligence to be shared at all levels of law enforcement
- Developing strategies that make the most of available resources
In order to qualify for designation as an HIDTA a county must show that:
- Its residents import, manufacture, and distribute a high quantity of illegal drugs.
- Local law enforcement show that they’re determined to make a strong response to the problem with whatever resources can be made available to them.
- The country’s drug-related activities pose a serious threat to the safety of its denizens and to the country as a whole.
- The crisis requires federal funds in order to mount an effective response to the problem.
What is Sonoma County doing to combat drug trafficking and manufacturing?
The Sonoma County Narcotics Unit was set up to deal specifically with the drug problem and to enforce existing laws. Four detectives are employed by the Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit, which works with the Property Crimes Unit. These four detectives are specialists in several areas, including conducting investigations, enforcing the appropriate laws, canine handling, and making use of experts to prosecute violators of the law. They work closely with federal agencies.
“Enough is enough!”
If you live in Santa Rosa and you or a loved one are at risk because of addiction, please reach out to us! We’re here to help you find what you need where you are or nearby, and to help you confront and recover from your addiction. Remember, it’s not the whole you that’s addicted: Your body may have become dependent on a harmful substance, but you have the power to step back, assess the damage, and say, “Enough is enough!” We’re here to accompany you along the amazing journey that follows the decision to get clean.
What if I get caught?
California law divides drug possession into two categories—1). possession and 2). possession with the intent to distribute. The defendant is usually charged with intent to sell if the amount of drug in their possession exceeds certain specified amounts for that drug. Drugs classified as dangerous are separated from marijuana, and there are a separate group of violations related to phencyclidine and methamphetamine.
If you’re arrested for possession in California and it’s your first offense, you can ask to enter a Diversion Program, which will give you the chance to have your case dismissed on your successful completion of an outpatient treatment (comprised of counseling, education, peer support, and random drug tests). Later convictions can also be referred to a Diversion Program if they’re simple possession and no other criminal charges are pending.
California has drug courts, based on the model first introduced in Miami, Florida, to aid nonviolent offenders to avoid recidivism. The drug courts were introduced to help addicts who committed crimes only for the purpose of getting enough money to feed their addictions.
The drug courts do face criticism when “graduates” of their programs go on to reoffend, but in general they have about a 50 percent success rate, which is actually quite substantial. Drug Court programs are similar to probation but usually involve a stay of a year or longer in a residential treatment program.
Offenders can request drug court as an alternative to prison time if they can convince the court that they have the motivation to succeed in rehab treatment. If they don’t cooperate with the residential treatment program they can be removed from drug court and sentenced in the conventional justice system. If sent to prison they’re still able to access drug abuse treatment vis the SAT program.
Marijuana, Medical and Recreational
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 allowed those over 21 to buy, own, and consume no more than 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana at home or in a licensed area. Californians are also allowed to grow up to six plants at home as long as the plants aren’t publicly visible.
As of the start of this new year, marijuana is now available in about 100 licensed shops across the state. The product will be inspected and tested for potency and contaminants by the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Medical marijuana has been legal for some time, and those with a doctor’s permission don’t have to pay tax on the marijuana they buy at legal dispensaries. Some counties have banned or limited the number of these shops, but marijuana sales are expected to generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue for the state of California.
Reducing Harm to Drug Users
Sometimes when an overdose occurs bystanders don’t want to call for medical help because they’re afraid that simply calling in as a witness to an overdose makes them vulnerable to arrest. This is why California created the overdose prevention law known as “Good Samaritan.” Under this law someone in possession of small amounts of a drug can evade arrest and prosecution in exchange for attempting to save a life.
Healthcare workers are encouraged, under the California Overdose Treatment Act, to carry and distribute naxolone, a drug that prevents overdose by blocking neural receptors to opioids. The drug is also available over the counter in some drug stores to aid friends an family members of those at risk to overdose.
The North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN) operates in Sonoma County via Face to Face. There’s also a syringe exchange program through SHARP (Sonoma County Hepatitis Aids Reduction Program), which also provides education to reduce risk of AIDS and Hepatitis C.
The state and county have also enacted the following to reduce harm to addicts:
- Sonoma County’s Drug Free Babies program helps pregnant women and new mothers get safe treatment for themselves and their babies.
- At the state level the Partnership HealthPlan of California strives to reduce risk by limited the abuse of painkillers.
- Walgreens drugstore has installed drop-off points across the state where unused medications can be dropped off and safely disposed of to keep them off the streets or from being used by pregnant women.
- Efforts are also in the works to compel doctors to run a patient’s name through a database before prescribing painkillers.
- MHSUDS (Mental Health Substance Use Disorder Services is part of the state’s Department of Health Care Services and has a mission to reduce, prevent, and aid recovery for addicts. It provides counseling services, detox, inpatient and outpatient programs, and aftercare.
A drug hotline in Santa Rosa allows people to anonymously inform the police about drug and gang activities. Informants do need to reveal their identity to police if contacted for further investigation, but because they’re classified as “citizen informants” the police can prosecute criminals without revealing who provided information against them.
Entering a Recovery Program
In order for a medical professional to take the time to screen a patient for drug and alcohol abuse there must at first be evidence—in the form of symptoms—that the substance abuse has taken place. For this reason it’s important to get in touch with a medical professional while the symptoms are still manifest. Once at a medical care facility a professional can examine the patient and get information on the amount of the drug or alcohol consumed, the length of time of use, and the problems the patient has experienced because of the addiction. This usually takes less than an hour. Underlying mental health issues will also be considered.
The goal of the assessment is to determine if the person is addicted or abusing drugs. The medical professional may conduct an intervention or send the patient for a more detailed assessment. If the patient is in agreement, a treatment plan can be developed.
The intake process differs according to which type of facility you’re entering, whether a detox facility, an outpatient program, a rehabilitation therapy center (RTC), or any of a number of other treatment programs. There are always admission requirements and patients are instructed as to which items they’re allowed to bring and which must not enter the facility. Patients must have undergone detox or be ready to undergo it, and must also agree to remain free of drugs and alcohol during their stay. They must also be physically stable and mentally competent to make decisions on their own behalf. This is usually the stage at which payment arrangements are made. Some facilities insist that patients admit themselves, but others allow close family members to admit patients.
Detox is the necessary first step of every treatment plan, as there is no hope of rehabilitation if the drug is still in the system and the patient continues to use. During detox the patient usually enters an inpatient facility where they remain for 30 days. Sometimes the first stage of detox, where the drug is simply allowed to leave the system and the patient’s withdrawal symptoms are treated with medications, takes place in an inpatient setting but the latter stages—counseling, education, and peer support—take place on an outpatient basis, allowing the patient to live at home while continuing treatment by means of visits to group therapy, classes, and counseling sessions.
While many addicts believe they can quit “cold turkey,” this is often futile and even dangerous. Medical supervision is necessary for detoxing off of the following substances:
- opiates, including heroin
- benzodiazepines (e.g. Ativan, Valium and Xanax)
- prescription opioids (e.g. hydrocodone and oxycodone)
- prescription medications such as Adderall and Ritalin
The term “inpatient treatment” refers to a live-in arrangement in a medical facility or rehabilitation center. These range from brief stays for detox to three to six months or even a year or longer in a residential treatment center.
If you’re searching for an RTC appropriate to you or a loved one it’s important to find out what each center offers that’s pertinent to your specific needs. Some centers offers special expertise in helping people of certain religions or races, for helping pregnant women.
Many different treatment methods are used in Santa Rosa’s inpatient treatment facilities, including but not limited to the following:
- Programs tailored to the special needs of adolescents, specific religious groups, men, and women, gays, lesbians, and transsexuals, people with HIV/AIDS
- Evidence-based teaching and counseling methods
- Adventure-based therapy for adolescents
- Experiential therapies
- Education in maintaining good health
- Vocational counseling
- Art therapy
- Family systems therapy
Outpatient services are offered as alternatives to inpatient services for those who for any reason are unable or unwilling to reside for any period of time in a medical center, hospital, or treatment facility. Outpatient services usually include random drug testing, counseling, instruction in how to avoid relapse, and peer support, and they’re offered at every stage of the recovery process from detox to aftercare.
Aftercare: Living clean and sober
In a sense aftercare begins in residential treatment, as part of the goal of such a long-term solution is to enable the recovered addict to live a normal life free of drugs in the outside world. Patients are usually encouraged to draft up a plan for their lives upon release, a plan that will effectively keep them from relapsing. The plan might include anything from avoiding certain former “friends” to choosing a different mode of employment to moving to a different neighborhood.
In this light aftercare is actually a continuation of the treatment and not an aftermath. Aftercare has been proven again and again to reduce the probability of relapse after leaving care. Two common forms of effective aftercare treatment are individual counseling with a qualified therapist and peer support in the form of 12-step programs. Sometimes RTC’s provide aftercare in the form of sober living arrangements such as halfway houses.
As you can see, recovery is not easy; the way is rough, but every step is worth it in the end.. Recovery requires that you build a new life for yourself—a life in which alcohol and drug abuse is neither needed nor welcome. Many of us have gone through the same struggle and are so happy with the outcome that we’re eager and ready to use our own experiences, good and bad, to help you lead a normal, happy life.
It always seems impossible until it’s done. ~Nelson Mandela