California’s Central Valley stretches from Bakersfield in the south to Redding in the north. The Valley encompasses a great deal of the state’s interior, and includes major cities including Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Visalia and Bakersfield. Though it is not as densely populated as the major cities of California, the valley’s substance abuse and addiction rates are well above those in the metropolitan areas.
Drugs are Abundant in California’s Central Valley
Though much of Central Valley is still made up of rural areas and agricultural centers, the availability of drugs throughout the valley rivals the access found in cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The primary reason that illicit drugs are so widely available in the area because the I-5 has become one of the main transportation lines that drug traffickers use to bring drugs into the country from Canada and Mexico. Criminal groups have established hubs along the I-5 where products such as methamphetamine, prescription pills, cocaine, heroin and marijuana are prepared for distribution and sale. Thanks to these local hubs, residents from even the most rural areas of the valley now have ready access to illegal drugs.
Opioid and Heroin Abuse in California’s Central Valley
Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, methamphetamine was the most pressing substance abuse concern in California. Since 2008, however, the abuse of prescription painkillers, opioids and heroin in these areas has outpaced the threat of meth. Even worse, many individuals struggling with opioid addiction have turned to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to acquire than another pain pill prescription. In this way, the nation’s issues with drug abuse can no longer be dismissed as “just an inner city problem.” The surge in heroin and opioid abuse, along with its demographic shift from California’s coastal cities to the rural Central Valley, reflects the movement of illegal drugs across the entire country.
Central Valley Drug Abuse Statistics
In a 2011 report on the Central Valley HIDTA, the Justice Department outlined the scope of the drug abuse and trafficking problems facing Central Valley:
- Much of the marijuana available in the Central Valley is being grown locally, typically on public land, in the eastern portions of the region.
- 7 million marijuana plants were destroyed in 2009 in the Central Valley (About 27% of all plants seized in the entire state).
- Ice methamphetamine is usually trafficked into the country and into the valley from Mexico, with smaller meth labs being set up in the valley to supply additional product.
According to the Justice Department report, a total of 119 meth labs in total were removed from Central Valley in 2009 alone:
- 7 Meth Labs in Fresno County
- 5 Meth Labs in Kern County
- 6 Meth Labs in Madera County
- 36 Meth Labs in Merced County
- 7 Meth Labs in Sacramento County
- 14 Meth Labs in San Joaquin County
- 33 Meth Labs in Stanislaus County
As recently as 2016, five individuals in Fresno were indicted on drug trafficking charges. The indictment followed an investigation into a drug trafficking group, based in California and Arizona, with ties to Mexican cartels. Over the course of the investigation, 30 pounds of meth were seized along with firearms, ammunition and nearly $12,000 in cash. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) were happy to get these drugs off the streets, though they admitted that the victory was just the tip of the iceberg.
Even more recently, Fresno police seized a kilogram of heroin (with a street value of over $100,000) from a truck at a convenience store near Scandinavian Middle School in February of 2017. While the investigation is still ongoing, police are looking into ties the man had with the Mexican cartels who run the Central Valley trafficking network.
Tackling Addiction and Drug Crime in Central Valley
While local and national agencies are working on ways to disrupt drug trafficking in the Central Valley, criminal manufacturers and distributers remain a step ahead of law enforcement. As a result, untreated drug abuse and addiction continues to strengthen the market for illegal drugs. Across the Central Valley and the United States, there is a growing trend of communities that recognize the need for substance abuse treatment. These communities have begun to prioritize offering help to those struggling with addiction over, simply trying to get rid of the drugs themselves.
Indeed, addiction treatment is still the most progressive way to address drug crime. In Central Valley, where drugs are abundant, addiction treatment is being utilized to try and save lives and decrease the demand for the drugs. While authorities continue to hinder illegal traffic and seize drugs off the streets, the reality is that drugs are already abundant in California and impacting the lives of Central Valley residents.
Elevate Addiction Services Offers Addiction Treatment for Central Valley Residents
At Elevate Addiction Services, we offer a caring and unique approach to holistic addiction treatment. With three treatment locations – Watsonville, South Lake Tahoe, and Placerville – we are conveniently located to offer residents of the Central Valley a peaceful environment where they can focus on their recovery. From initial detox to continuing care, we offer our guests a structured, effective approach to recovery, which can instill hope in those struggling with drug addiction. Our services are available to any of our Central Valley neighbors in need of care.