Data Tracker

See where California's heroin, opioid problems are worst

By Phillip Reese - preese

A tube of a drug known as Narcan. It counteracts the effects of heroin and painkillers. Charles Krupa Associated Press
A tube of a drug known as Narcan. It counteracts the effects of heroin and painkillers. Charles Krupa Associated Press

California hospitals treated more than 11,500 patients suffering an opioid or heroin overdose in 2013, new state figures show.

That's roughly one overdose every 45 minutes. It's also up more than 50 percent from 2006.

The trend explains a rise in the number of California infants born suffering withdrawal from heroin or painkillers.

Hospitals in rural superior California see the highest rate of opioid overdoses. Between 2006 and 2013, Shasta County hospitals saw more than 1,100 overdose, or eight overdoses per 10,000 residents, more than triple the statewide average.

The rate of opioid overdoses in Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado counties was higher than the statewide average; Yolo County had a slightly lower rate than the statewide average.

Opioid overdoses resulting in ER visits and hospitalizations increased steadily nearly every year from 2006 to 2013, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Opioid deaths peaked in 2010 and have dropped slightly in following years, according to the California Department of Public Health.

California is one of many states struggling with opioid overdoses.

The recent epidemic is largely due to "an increased awareness of the right to pain relief, the support of various organizations supporting the use of opioids in large doses, and finally, aggressive marketing by the pharmaceutical industry," according to a widely-cited 2012 academic study. Other studies have noted wide variations in how doctors prescribe opiods. Also, illicit use of heroin has risen sharply, particularly among young adults, state ER visitation data show.

This chart and map highlight the extent of the heroin and opioid epidemic in California.

Data source:

California Department of Public Health

Note: Deaths resulting for opioid overdoses unavailable for 2013. Overdose rates shown for 2006 to 2013 extrapolate 2013 death data based on 2006-2012 deaths. Overdose figures shown include all deaths, ER visits not resulting in hospitalization and hospitalizations not resulting in deaths.

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