The California Department of Public Health just dropped some staggering statistics about the level of opioid abuse in America’s progressive paradise of the left coast. As the Sacramento Bee points out, there are a remarkable number of counties in California where annual prescriptions for pain killers actually exceed the population.
Trinity County is the state’s fourth-smallest, and ended last year with an estimated population of 13,628 people.
Its residents also filled prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids 18,439 times, the highest per capita rate in California.
Besides Trinity, other counties with more prescriptions than people include Lake, Shasta, Tuolumne and Del Norte counties. In the Sacramento region, El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties had prescription rates above the statewide average, with Yolo County slightly below the state average.
A county’s prescription total represents all opioids dispensed via prescriptions filled at a pharmacy and tracked by the state. Statewide, 15 percent of Californians were prescribed opioids in 2016, ranging from 7.3 percent of residents in tiny Alpine County to almost 27 percent in Lake County.
As might be expected, the scripts per capita are highest in California’s more rural northern counties.
So who is participating most in this deadly epidemic? Well, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the biggest abusers of opioids are high-school educated, unemployed, white people living in small towns…
“The following characteristics were associated with higher amounts of opioids prescribed: a larger percentage of non-Hispanic whites; higher rates of uninsured and Medicaid enrollment; lower educational attainment; higher rates of unemployment; (small-town) status; more dentists and physicians per capita; a higher prevalence of diagnosed diabetes, arthritis, and disability; and higher suicide rates,” concluded the authors of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in July.
“What you’re seeing in California is what you’re seeing in many parts of the country, including Oregon,” Korthuis said. “There are still a lot of rural counties around the U.S. that are awash in prescription opioids.”
…oh, and grandma and grandpa are getting high on the reg as well.
In California, residents aged 15 to 29 got 1.7 million prescriptions in 2016, representing 7.2 percent of the state total. That’s down from the 1.9 million prescriptions in 2015, which represented about 7.8 percent of the state total. The age range that featured the largest prescription rate increase were 70- to74-year-olds, whose prescriptions grew from almost 1,354 per 1,000 people in 2015 to 1,394 per 1,000 people in 2016.
Of course, growth in opioid addiction is hardly just a California phenomenon. According to the CDC’s Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes, addiction-related deaths are far more prevalent in the rural ‘rust-belt’ states of the Midwest.
Meanwhile, the epidemic is growing far more severe every year with overdose deaths up 167% across the country since 1999.
The rate of drug overdose deaths increased from 6.1 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 16.3 in 2015; for unintenttional drug overdose deaths, the rate increased from 4.0 per 100,000 in 1999 to 13.8 in 2015; for drug overdose deaths involving any opioid, the rate increased from 2.9 per 100,000 in 1999 to 10.4 in 2015 (p<0.05); for unintenttional drug overdose deaths involving any opioid, the rate increased from 2.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 9.3 per 100,000 in 2015 (p<0.05). For all four categories of drug overdose deaths, increases in rates were largest from 2013 to 2015, with the rate increasing on average by 9% per year for overall drug overdose deaths (p<0.05), 11% per year for unintenttional drug overdose deaths (p<0.05), 15% per year for drug overdose deaths involving any opioid (p<0.05), and 16% for unintenttional drug overdose deaths involving any opioid (p<0.05).
But don’t worry too much because, as Princeton Economist Alan Krueger told us yesterday, there is a simple solution to the opioid epidemic in the U.S…apparently it can all be solved with just a little more Obamacare.