California has been one of the hardest-hit states in the recent substance abuse and addiction epidemic that has grown exponentially in the nation since 2010. In the mid-1990s, the Center for Applied Research Solutions (CARS) began working with the California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to monitor drug and alcohol abuse in the county. During recent decades, their findings have facilitated the improvement of drug and alcohol rehab programs, and results have improved monitoring and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. In the face of the worst drug epidemic the world has seen in modern times, it is important to look closer at the statistics and continue to hone the way we tackle these substance problems.
El Dorado County Alcohol Statistics vs. California Statistics
Overall, El Dorado County has a high – or higher than average incidence – of drug and alcohol abuse compared to the rest of California. In 2007, 30% of Californians age 18 and older reported binge drinking. In El Dorado County, that number jumped to 34%. A 2015 report stated the same county also has a high rate of binge drinking, with 21% of residents reporting excessive or heavy drinking, compared to the California state average of 17%. Heavy consumption is defined as more than two drinks per day on average for men, and more than one per day on average for women.
Binge drinking and illicit alcohol use naturally lead to alcohol-related crimes. Between 2008 and 2010, California’s alcohol-related arrest rate was about 1,345 per 100,000 people. However, the alcohol-related arrest rate for the El Dorado was even higher. Alcohol arrest rates were highest for people between 25 and 34, with individuals between 18-24 being the next highest grouping. Demographically, African-Americans received the most alcohol-related arrests in 2008 alone, with a rate of 3,035 per 100,000.
El Dorado County also experiences a plethora of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. In 2016, 44% of driving fatalities in the county involved alcohol. Comparatively, California’s average of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities is 31%, and the nationwide average is only 14%. As with binge drinking, males were more likely to be involved in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident than females. In 2008, nearly 2/3 of the people participating in this type of accident were male. In terms of racial demographics, blacks suffered the greatest level of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities with a rate of 366 per 100,000 people. Whites had the next-highest rate, at 147 per 100,000, and Hispanics had the lowest rate of those surveyed at 111 per 100,000.
El Dorado County Hospitalizations and Deaths Due to Drugs and Alcohol
Despite above average drug and alcohol use in El Dorado County, the hospitalization rate for alcohol and drug abuse was lower than the state average. However, death rates increased from 14.51 deaths per 100,000 statewide to 26.82 deaths per 100,000 in El Dorado County. Death rates due to alcohol use decreased slightly, while death rates due to drug use jumped from 4.41 per 100,000 throughout the state to 19.39 per 1000,000 in the county alone. Beginning in 2001, the county’s drug use death rate was higher than the statewide average each year.
As of 2008, poisoning or noxious substances, which includes prescription and illegal drugs, accounted for 35% of deaths. Another 28% of deaths were attributed to motor vehicle accidents, which may or may not have involved alcohol or drugs.
Reasons for Hospitalization and Death from Drug Abuse
Many factors influence El Dorado County’s continually high hospitalization and death rates due to alcohol and drug abuse. One of the first and most prevalent is access to care. There are fewer primary care physicians per 100,000 people than anywhere else in California. A large percentage of the population lives in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Though there are no strict guidelines as to amounts or percentages, an HSPA is defined as an area with a shortage in healthcare providers. Therefore, some of the county residents may go without access to health care for days, weeks, or months at a time as a result of access to medical providers and specialists.
Residents also lack access to specific substance abuse treatment. They struggle to access both inpatient and outpatient care, as well as treatment individualized for their particular addictions. Many struggling with the abuse of alcohol or drugs feel that medical professionals are not “culturally competent” enough to help them, given their lack of expertise in the area of addiction.
Lack of Addiction Treatment Options in El Dorado County
Follow-up care plays a significant role in who receives treatment and stays clean and sober and who does not. Residents report a consistent lack of access to follow-up care. After a hospitalization, those struggling with substance abuse may only receive basic discharge instructions. A doctor might recommend anti-alcohol or drug abuse prescriptions. However, these prescriptions may worsen the problems, and it is evident that residents are searching for quality addiction treatment services and ongoing substance abuse counseling and treatment.
Reports from as recently as 2014 indicate residents struggle with basic nutritional literacy – in other words, they don’t know how drugs and alcohol affect their brains and bodies. Although they might be able to stop substance abuse for a short while, these residents may not know the food, drink, and exercise regimens they need to heal fully. Many El Dorado County residents lack safe and affordable places to exercise, as well. This increases their risk of obesity (and related issues), muscle atrophy, chronic pain, depression, and the return to substance abuse.
Rates of Diseases and Injuries Associated With Substance Abuse
According to the Healthy El Dorado County Community Health Status Assessment of 2014, diseases associated with substance abuse have been on the rise lately. In 2014, hypertension rates for the city of El Dorado, California topped out at 385.2 hospitalizations per 10,000 people. Additionally, 485.6 out of every 10,000 El Dorado residents visited an emergency department for hypertension.
Drug use, particularly abuse of smoked or inhaled drugs such as marijuana, has increased the prevalence of various lung diseases in the County. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, and bronchitis are seen more often in the hospitals and emergency departments. In 2014, these lung problems accounted for 310.6 hospitalizations per 10,000 in the city of El Dorado and 282.3 emergency department visits per 10,000 people as well.
The county also has a higher rate of self-inflicted injury than California. El Dorado County’s rate was 10.7 in 10,000 people in 2014; California’s rate was 7.9 per 10,000. Reported self-injury was not directly connected to drug or alcohol abuse. However, self-injury is often a consequence of substance abuse, particularly if the user is depressed or has a dual diagnosis (mental disorder and substance abuse).
Have Improvements Occurred?
Despite these alarming statistics, there have been some improvements to the overall health of El Dorado’s citizens in recent years. According to South Tahoe Now, the County has ranked among the healthiest counties in California for the last five years (2010-2015). Out of 57 ranked counties, El Dorado County ranked 7th in a 2015 report from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In El Dorado County, high school graduation rates are increasing while poverty rates are decreasing. Ninety-four percent of students graduate high school, making it the highest-ranked county for high school graduation in the state. Additionally, only 14% of children are living in poverty, compared to a 24% statewide average. Only 10% of adults currently report fair or poor health. Poor health is often linked with abuse of opioids, benzodiazepines, and other prescription drugs. This is significantly lower than the 18% statewide average.
The County continually ranks low in clinical care, however. As of 2015, they ranked 11th out of 57 counties. The county ranks 18th for negative health behaviors including drinking, smoking, and physical inactivity. El Dorado County ranks 31st out of 57 for physical environment. Environmental problems include pollution, inadequate housing, and long or solitary commutes to work. These and other environmental factors often play significant roles in drug and alcohol abuse.
Advice for Those Struggling with Substance Abuse
Many substance abusers hesitate to get help because of stigma, or because they fear that their “secrets” and addictions will be known to the world. However, medical confidentiality protects against such concerns and medical professionals can be an unparalleled source of hope. Your doctor or counselor’s goal is to ensure you receive the treatment you need to recover.
Depending on the severity of your addiction, as well as other factors such as the substances you use, your doctor may recommend inpatient treatment. California is home to several excellent rehabilitation facilities, including Elevate Rehab, where we take a comprehensive, individualized approach to addiction recovery.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for El Dorado County, CA Residents
Many are surprised to learn that their substance addiction actually stems from a separate trauma or mental health issue. To properly treat addiction, it is therefore imperative that the treating professional be trained and equipped to manage such a dual diagnosis. Elevate Rehab is one of the few addiction treatment centers in California with professional staff dedicated to the treatment of a dual diagnosis. If you are dealing with or suspect you are suffering from a mental health disorder, ask your doctor, counselor, or another medical professional about obtaining a dual diagnosis so that you can choose a rehab that is prepared to give you the complete treatment you need and deserve.
Don’t try to quit alcohol or drugs alone or “cold turkey.” The withdrawal process for many substances, especially benzodiazepines, is extremely dangerous. Seek medical detox with adequate supervision.