The Opioid Crisis in Orange County

According to a new report by Orange County, California’s health care agency, the overdose deaths in Orange County have greatly surpassed that of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties and, most shockingly, all of California as a whole. The opioid crisis in Orange County has grown so much that a high concentration of treatment centers has popped up in the area hoping to combat this issue, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. In addition, the report details that the majority of state-licensed treatment centers and unregulated sober living homes are located along the coast and in south county, where overdose deaths are highest.

What is the Opioid Crisis?

To understand the opioid crisis in Orange County, it is important to also understand how the opioid crisis came to be. In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.

This increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. As such, in 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency.

Why is it Worse in Orange County?

There are many reasons for the growth of an opioid epidemic in Orange County, including:

  • Doctors more willing to prescribe opioids. Opioids are a helpful resource for individuals experiencing chronic pain from an injury, surgery, or illness. However, many doctors overprescribe to their patients, or they prescribe opioids to patients who may not require them in order to take advantage of incentives from pharmaceutical companies.
  • Lack of prevention and awareness campaigns. The less a group of people know about the dangers of opioids, the more willing they will be to try them and possibly abuse them. In addition, the younger an individual is exposed to prevention and awareness campaigns, the less likely they will be to abuse opioids when they are older.
  • The concentrated population of people able to pay for the medication. Orange County is widely regarded as one of the most affluent places to live. As such, it has a high concentration of individuals with a disposable income and able to sustain their addiction.
  • Lack of resources in the county to care for people suffering from substance abuse or for prevention measures. Every county has a budget with different priorities to place their money and resources in. Some counties do not have sufficient funds or resources to focus on substance abuse prevention and treatment, however, that can always change.

The Stigma of Medication-Assisted Treatment

In addition to the above, one of the largest reasons that there is an opioid crisis in Orange County is due to the stigma of medication-assisted treatment. According to a study by the county, less than half of Orange County’s addiction treatment centers currently offer it even though it yields the best long-term results in recovery and a great solution to the opioid epidemic as a whole.

Unfortunately, not everyone is convinced. Critics of medication-assisted treatment find that it is replacing one addiction for another and, in some cases, funded by the government. The reality is that becoming sober by quitting cold turkey isn’t realistic for everyone. Opioids interfere with communications between the brain and the nerve endings, which can lead to extremely uncomfortable — and dangerous — withdrawal symptoms for people who stop cold turkey. A safe, medical detox treatment by tapering the individual slowly off of opioids allows for a comfortable detox and makes relapse less likely.

What is Orange County Doing About the Opioid Crisis?

Luckily, Orange County is taking action on their opioid crisis in many ways. According to the report, the county has made plans for a response including an emphasis on prevention through community education and medication-assisted treatment.


As soon as early 2020, Orange County will launch opioid overdose and misuse prevention campaigns. They’ll include education and targeted messaging to high-risk groups using social, digital, and print media. A study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found an ROI of $1.25 for every $1 spent on peer-delivered substance use programs.

Efforts are also being aimed at doctors who prescribe these opioids. On average, Orange County wrote 1.7 million opioid prescriptions a year during 2014-2017. Last year, the number went down to 1.5 million.

However, prevention and awareness measures may come too late for some. That is why, according to the report, the county has increased access to Narcan. Narcan is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. By increasing access to this medication, residents of Orange County will be able to save the lives of their loved ones more quickly and, in turn, will lower fatal opioid overdose rates.


The county now funds 3 detox facilities, 8 residential treatment sites, 14 outpatient treatment sites, 4 medication-assisted treatment facilities, and 6 sober living homes. Orange County is also partnering with Hoag, Kaiser Permanente, Providence St. Joseph Health, and CalOptima to develop the Be Well Orange County Regional Behavioral Health Campus. This campus aims to provide opioid use disorder-related resources for every individual, no matter what insurance coverage they may have.

About Cliffside Malibu

All over the United States, the opioid epidemic is present and communities are working to stop this dangerous epidemic in its tracks. If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid use disorder and need treatment, our admissions counselors are available 24 hours a day.

Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for every client. We are committed to providing evidence-based treatment through a continuum of care model including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program also includes family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are structured to create a supportive environment where healing can begin.

In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, and meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.

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