Murrieta and Temecula, California
Addiction can strike anywhere at any time, even in the most unexpected places like the prosperous California cities of Murrieta and Temecula. Although it is less common in these areas, the consequences and dangers drug addiction presents are just the same as anywhere else. It has proven to be an epidemic in itself, with numbers of overdoses and arrests consistently on the rise all across America. Knowing what to look for in others, as well as knowing when to seek help for yourself is crucial in ending a life filled with drugs, despair and pain and moving forward to a successful, sober future filled with hope, opportunity and success. For those looking to start their road to recovery, there are many options of treatment available that can fit their specific hobbies, interest, or level of addiction. There will always be people and medical professionals available to help you without judgement, and a life of sobriety is never out of reach.
Sunny Southern California is home to beautiful beaches, regal forested mountains and some of the most authentic Mexican food north of the border. In the heart of Southern California is Riverside County, which is home to both Murrieta and Temecula, two of the most affluent and desirable cities in the county. With thriving local economies, hundreds of tourist attractions for visitors and activities to entertain the locals, and the cities’ consistently pleasant weather, Murrieta and Temecula have blossomed from rural farming towns into bustling productive cities. They are both only about an hour away from beaches, snowy mountains, and the high desert which has made the area the perfect living destination for those that enjoy the outdoors and want to live in close proximity to everything California has to offer.
The residents of the Murrieta and Temecula have quite a bit in common, considering the fact that they are neighboring cities that share the same freeways, major city streets and businesses like the Department of Motor Vehicles and Costco. Temecula is the larger of the two, with a population of 113,054 while Murrieta is closely following at 111,674 inhabitants. They are racially diverse cities, and although White people are the majority for the area, they also have a considerable number of Hispanic, Black and Asian citizens as well.
Murrieta, California is also known as “The Gem of the Valley” and is considered one of the best suburban areas to raise a family in the entire United States. The area offers award-winning schools at every level, both public and private, safe neighborhoods with extremely low crime rates, and child-friendly amenities all over the city to keep families and children entertained and busy. The median age for the city is 33 years old, which is slightly younger than the California median age of 36. Nearly 80% of Murrieta residents are families boasting an average yearly household income of $81,467 which is well above the state average. Murrieta has nearly 50 parks and playgrounds in the area, Mulligan’s Family Fun Center that contains go-karts, a large arcade and miniature golf, a luxury movie theater and a long list of family-friendly restaurants. Murrieta takes pride in the fact that it is a family-oriented city and offers many community events throughout the year that allow families to attend and enjoy themselves, like the annual city birthday bash firework show, Veteran’s day ceremony at the city hall and outdoor movie nights at many of the local parks. Locals take pride in the safety of the city and success of the local Murrieta Police Department, and many citizens fight to keep it that way. Murrieta even made state news back in 2014 after a large group of 200-300 residents created a blockade to protest the arrival of busloads of illegal immigrant detainees that were being moved to the Murrieta area from Texas. They were successful in their protest, causing the buses to turn around and instead take the 140 illegal detainees to a facility in San Diego. Safety is such a priority for the city that have been named the safest city in Riverside County multiple years in a row, as well as appearing in the top 10 safest cities in all of America for many years, reaching #2 at it’s highest point. The city is a prosperous, successful suburban area that has grown and developed so much since the 1990’s, it is now a very popular destination for young families and retirees alike looking for the ideal place to call home.
Just south of Murrieta is the slightly larger city of Temecula, California. It is very similar to Murrieta in population, diversity of its’ residents and the median age of the city. Temecula is also built on a foundation of family, with 81% of the residents being families that earn an impressive annual household income of $90,179, which is far above the state average of only $67,739. Like Murrieta, Temecula features large homes, safe neighborhoods with a strong police presence to deter crime, and a close proximity to many amenities young families would be looking for. However, Temecula is much more popular than Murrieta for tourists because of a few extremely popular places of interest the city is proud to be home to and known for. The most popular tourist attraction in the area is the Pechanga Resort and Casino. It is a huge Native American casino with a recently upgraded hotel featuring over 1,000 rooms, the “Journey at Pechanga” golf course, 11 restaurants, a 1,200 seat Showroom Theater that hosts shows and performances by famous musicians, magicians, comedians and ethnic performers, and a casino that features over 4,000 slot machines and a casino floor that’s larger than the MGM Grand in Las Vegas! The casino’s overall annual revenue averages nearly $1,000,000,000 and they are the second largest employer in Riverside County. Temecula also features its beautiful wine country, which is an extremely popular stop for tourists all over California and boasts nearly 40 different wineries, each offering their own tasting rooms, private events and 5-star restaurants. The wineries are spread over an area of 33,000 acres just east of the 15 freeway. Temecula also features an area known as Old Town Temecula, which is a strip designed to look like the old western town that Temecula once was, offering antique shops, restaurants, a weekly farmers market, children’s museum and annual Christmas Parade. Temecula is a beautiful city that consistently sees an increase in its local economy, property values, and growth.
These Wholesome Towns are not Immune
Both cities have become extremely popular for young families and have many similarities, but even the most affluent cities are not immune to the rapidly-progressing drug problem in the Untied States. While both cities have impressively low crime rates compared to other cities in Riverside County, they have still seen an increase of drug abuse over the last few years. The drug of choice for the area is mainly methamphetamine, with heroin and other opiates following very closely behind. The problem in the Murrieta and Temecula area stems from the fact that this part of Riverside County has been found to be the #1 largest drug trafficking distribution area in the United States, and the two cities are pretty much in the center of it all. The area is comprised of huge webs of freeways and interstates that lead in every direction possible, with many stretches of road traveling through empty deserts or unsuspecting suburban towns. Drugs discovered and seized from traffickers in this area of Riverside County have been found to be en-route to areas all across North America, ranging from New York, Los Angeles, Canada, Florida and Chicago. Southern California is seeing the drugs, mostly methamphetamine and heroin, coming from the Sinaloa groups in Mexico and entering the U.S. through the border town of Calexico and disappearing into the sea of semi-trucks carrying agriculture and other goods being imported from Mexico as well. This makes it very easy for the cartel groups to flood the United States with illegal drugs, and most of them unfortunately pass through the Murrieta/Temecula area on their way to their final destination. Temecula is also home to a Border Patrol checkpoint along the I-15 freeway, which seizes large amounts of drugs with street values well over $1,000,000 on a regular basis.
Methamphetamine is the most common street drug seized and abused in the area, which is cheap, powerful and extremely addictive. It causes severe paranoia, rapid weight loss and malnutrition, sleeplessness, tremors, skin-picking and lesions, violent outbursts and eventually full-blown psychosis. It is often viewed as the most dangerous of all street drugs, because it is so incredibly addictive and causes so many negative changes in the users’ physical appearance and mental state. It is also the drug with the lowest recovery rate, with only about 10% of it’s users kicking the habit completely.
The Murrieta/Temecula area has also seen an increase in prescription painkiller prescriptions being handed out over the last few years, which naturally leads to more and more residents addicted to opiates of all kinds. Someone starting out their drug abuse with prescription pain pills will pay up to $80 for one Oxycodone pill, for example, until they realize that a bag, or one dose of heroin can be as cheap as $5. This leads many, many painkiller addicts to make the switch to illicit street drugs like heroin because it is just so much cheaper and therefore accessible to them. Dealers take further advantage of the addicts by cutting, or essentially diluting the heroin with other, sometimes even more dangerous substances. A popular cutting substance that has been on the rise lately is Fentanyl, which is a synthetic or man-made opiate meant to be used as a painkiller and as an anesthetic along with other medications. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is the most widely-used synthetic opioid in the world. On average, is it 50-75 times more potent than morphine in a hospital setting, but as more and more people are learning to make their own in “home superlabs”, samples have been found that are up to 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. People in both the U.S. and Mexico are using these “superlabs” to manufacture their own Fentanyl that is unregulated and of unknown strength, using it to cut their heroin, and causing a rapid spike in the number of overdose deaths being seen by local hospitals.
Normal effects of heroin are a “rush” or surge of intense pleasure, constricted pupils, weight loss, slowing of breathing and heart rate, a warm, fuzzy feeling of calm confidence, and a heavy feeling in the extremities. After a while, the person begins to feel sleepy and “nod off”, or alternate being asleep and awake very rapidly and unpredictably. Lately, however, hospitals are seeing more and more patients coming in that are accidentally overdosing, because of the strong presence of Fentanyl that is unknowingly being added to the heroin they are injecting or smoking. Murrieta is even home to one of the only Methadone clinics in the area, which is a clinic that distributes the prescription drug Methadone, which is meant to help heroin and opiate addicts slowly detox themselves from the drugs. This has caused a lot of controversy among the residents for the fear that it is drawing more dangerous people and addicts to the area in order to utilize the clinic, and because the effectiveness of Methadone is controversial and widely argued because it is often seen as replacing one drug with another.
Is Someone You Know Using?
Drug abuse can take hold of a person of any age, race, social class or family history, and knowing what to look for when looking for signs of drug abuse is important because it can literally affect anyone at any time. If someone you know might be using illegal street drugs, alcohol, or even prescription medications, there are a few main things to look for that will likely happen to them, no matter which drug they are using.
Common side effects amongst addictions in general are loss of interest in regular activities or hobbies, weight loss or gain, angry outbursts or unpredictable behavior, spending more or running out of money, and sneaky behaviors such as staying out later or being gone longer than expected.
Once you have determined that the person in question is in fact using drugs, further inspection of the signs and symptoms can help you narrow down what exactly they are using. For example, someone using methamphetamine will experience severe weight loss that is not normal for them, continue repeating the same monotonous or tedious tasks over and over again, dilated pupils, not sleeping or eating, complaining of voices in their heads or bugs under their skin, and typically meth users have constant open sores on their face or arms from picking and scratching. Heroin users, on the other hand, are sometimes harder to identify because most symptoms can easily go unnoticed or blamed on other regular things. They are often tired and lethargic to the extent they are falling asleep anywhere, have constricted pupils that are tiny like pinpoints, may experience some weight loss, and be very itchy as heroin is a histamine and causes a slight allergic reaction in most people.
The most obvious way to distinguish a heroin user, however, is when they “nod off” and essentially slip in and out of consciousness without even realizing it. Nodding off appears different from just falling asleep under regular circumstances, because those nodding off will appear to just shut off in the middle of a task like talking or eating, and even during more dangerous times like driving or working with dangerous equipment, and slowly lower their heads as opposed to someone that is just sleepy and yawning laying down for a nap.
Common prescription medications that are being abused more and more in the area are Vicodin, Norco, LorTab, Xanax, Adderall, OxyContin and Percocet, which each have their own symptoms of abuse to look for. It is best to educate yourself on the differences between these pills and what effects they can have when being abused in order to determine whether or not someone you know is under the influence.
Ready to Quit: Now What?
When an addict reaches their breaking point, it is often referred to as hitting “rock bottom”. This can happen for many different reasons, and everyone’s so-called “rock bottom” is different, depending on their personal beliefs, morals and situations. For some, they reach their breaking point when they are arrested or sent to jail, overdose, hurt someone else because of their addiction, lose custody of their children, become homeless, or do something to support their addiction that they never imagined themselves doing. Once their life reaches this point and they decide they need to quit and are prepared to live a life of sobriety, the recovery process can begin. There are a few vital steps that are very important in the beginning of recovery in order for an addict to have the best possible chance at a sober life.
Assessment and Intake
The first step to nearly every recovery and rehabilitation program is a general assessment of the addict. This can be done at the program facility if an addict chooses to go there first, or it can be completed in a hospital if the patient is there for an overdose or on their own accord. The assessment generally consists of surveys and questionnaires given to the patient regarding their own personal drug use, both physical and mental medical history, family history of drug abuse, and sometimes open-ended questions that allow the patient to explain their addiction themselves. Various types of professionally-created screening tests may also be used during assessment, like the National Institute on Drug Use Screening Tool (NIDA) or Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). All tests and questionnaires given by the medical professionals are crucial in the long-term success of the patient, and patient privacy regarding their responses is always a top priority. Basic vitals are taken from the patient as well, to make sure they are not in immediate need of emergency medical care.
Once the assessment is complete, the addict can begin the detox stage of recovery. When detoxifying the body to rid it of all drugs present in the system, it is best to do this in a hospital setting or after choosing a treatment facility that will help the patient get through this step, as it is often seen as one of the more difficult parts of recovery. Quitting drugs often causes the body to go through withdrawal symptoms that range in severity depending on the drug of choice, length of addiction, method of ingestion such as smoking, snorting or injecting, and personal medical history.
Common withdrawal symptoms for most drugs are fever, diarrhea, tremors, stomach pain or nausea, lethargy and irritability.
Medical professionals can administer various medications that may ease the symptoms or relieve the pain as the patient detoxes, and symptoms can last anywhere from 24-48 hours to weeks in extreme cases.
Detox is seen as a very necessary step of treatment because it allows the addict to clear their mind and body of the drug and allow them to begin their recovery journal with a fresh start and as healthy as possible. Once the detox is complete and the patient is ready to move on to treatment, they must decide on what type of recovery program they are interested in utilizing.
Types of Treatment: Pros and Cons
There are literally hundreds of different methods and systems of treatment used by various recovery centers, but most of them can be classified into a few different types of treatment centers; a residential or inpatient program, outpatient program, or sober living home.
A residential program, often referred to as an inpatient program, is the best choice for a serious addict that is making their first attempt at sobriety, or for someone that has relapsed multiple times in the past. This is the most dedicated type of rehab because it requires the addict to move into the facility and live there under 24/7 monitoring for the entire extent of the program.
Typically, programs can range from 28-90 days, depending on the severity of the addiction and the patients’ personal progress and determination throughout the process. Patients are required to attend daily group and/or individual therapy sessions, meet with a counselor, therapist or psychologist, and undergo routine drug and health tests.
Residential programs can range from a more basic program that uses just the therapy sessions, group meetings, and education to help its’ residents, and some can be very luxurious, expensive centers that utilize the newest and trendiest methods of treatment. Some of these can include spa services, animal-assisted therapies like horseback riding or visits with service dogs, acupuncture, and physical therapy like meditation, exercise classes and yoga.
While it is difficult for some addicts to have the strength to move away from their families and loved ones, and sometimes even quit their job to enter an inpatient rehabilitation center, it is the most successful form of treatment they can get. They are constantly under the care and supervision of medical professionals in both the physical and mental health practices like doctors, registered nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and certified therapists or counselors. They are also required to live in the facility in either a shared room or individual room depending on the facility, which allows them to get away from any stressors or triggers they may encounter in their everyday life at home or work. While residential programs can be very pricey, they are often covered by various insurances and sometimes offer payment plans.
If a residential program seems a little intimidating for an addict, or they feel like they are determined enough to not require 24/7 monitoring and trust themselves, an outpatient program might be a better choice for them. These programs are similar to inpatient programs, but do not require the patients to reside at the facility.
While these programs also typically require the patient to take drug tests, attend meetings and therapy sessions, and meet with counselors or psychologists, patients are allowed to do it at their convenience. This allows the patient to keep living at home with their families or children, continue working if they have a job they can’t afford to lose or quit, and maintain most of their regular everyday life. Most outpatient treatment centers will first review the assessment, and work with the patient to create a program that is easy for them to follow and stick to. Some centers hold meetings and therapy sessions in the center itself, and others encourage patients to utilize local group meetings like Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) or Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) a few times a week. They are often required to sign into the meetings or have an attendance record sheet signed by the person in charge of the meeting, so the patient can return it to the center as proof of their attendance.
A typical outpatient program requires the patient to attend at least 10-12 hours of meetings or classes per week and asks that the patient to check in once or twice with the facility each week for a drug test or progress evaluation. Most outpatient programs can last anywhere from 30 days up to a year if needed and are sometimes used by addicts that have already completed an inpatient program and just want assistance in continuing their sobriety. These programs are generally used for those with more mild to moderate addictions, or addicts that have shown more self-control than others and have no problem holding themselves accountable for their actions. Since they will still be living in the same environment they did as an addict, it is important for the treatment facility to teach them healthy coping mechanisms and educate them on the right choices to make when they encounter triggers or feel like drugs are the only solution to a problem they may encounter in their everyday lives.
The third most common type of rehabilitation center is known as a sober living home, or halfway house. These are most often utilized by those that have recently completed a program but want a more straightforward and structured way to maintain sobriety after treatment ends. They can also be used as a first type of treatment as well, it just depends on what the addict feels would be their best option, as well as what is recommended for them after they complete detox.
Sober living homes are group homes owned by a treatment center that are usually monitored by former addicts that are now living a life of sobriety and want to help others succeed as well. They do receive routine visits from therapists or counselors as needed as well. These group homes require the recovering addicts living there to maintain complete sobriety by participating in weekly random drug test, as well as avoid bringing any drugs into the house and allowing routine room searches. The residents are required to pay monthly rent, and if they are in need of a job to do so, many halfway houses offer assistance in job searches or have contracts with local warehouses or businesses that are willing to give recovering addicts a shot at a new job. Residents are also required to help with household chores assigned to them, refrain from fighting or any violence whatsoever, attend weekly group meetings held either inside the house or at a local N.A./A.A. meeting, and adhere to a strict schedule and curfew.
The idea behind a sober living home is to allow recovering addicts to live in an environment with other people that have the same goals and focus as themselves, creating a network of helping hands and support. It is a non-judgmental environment where everyone is expected to work together and be accountable for their own behavior and success. They are built on the principle that the best way for a recovering addict to be successful in the future is to learn to redirect their life from one of lies, deceit and drugs to one of accountability, responsibility and using the education and life skills taught here to make their own smart choices in the future. They are typically allowed to come and go as they please throughout the day once chores are completed, meet with family or friends nearby or invite them to the house on visitor days, and go to and from work as needed as long as it adheres to the curfew. Violating the rules, however, can result in fines, extra chores, and even being removed from the house in some cases. Sober living homes are often seen as a great way for recovering addicts to learn how to be independent again and function in a normal society, and gain knowledge of how to properly handle everyday life without the crutch of drug use to fall back on.
Once the patient is back on their own and living a life of sobriety, they often utilize one of the various methods of aftercare. Some former addicts will continue attending N.A. or A.A. meetings on their own as a place to meet fellow recovering addicts and make new friends that are on a similar path. Others will follow up with their own personal therapist, counselor or psychologist on a regular basis as a way for them to have someone to talk to about what they are feeling or experiencing, and to have someone help guide them in making choices that are beneficial to their sobriety. It is also a great way to vent and discuss any unexpected stress or triggers they may be running into and aren’t sure how to respond to it. Treatment facilities also sometimes offer their own type of aftercare once a patient successfully completes the program. This can be continuing to visit the facility for follow-up meetings with the same counselor that helped you throughout treatment, or meetings that can be held in person or over the phone to discuss possible triggers the recovering addict may be encountering. A clear, precise aftercare plan is very important in the longevity of an addict’s recovery, because being able to identify and properly address triggers is imperative in long-term sobriety. The risk of relapse for someone that has completed a rehabilitation program ranges from 40-60%, which can be an intimidating statistic for those trying to maintain sobriety without support. Having these tools and resources at their disposal to properly and successfully continue aftercare is a long-term commitment that many recovering addicts turn to more often than they expected they would and is therefore vital in remaining sober.