Some California Counties Have More Opioid Prescriptions Than People

Trinity County is the fourth smallest county in California with a population of 13,628. Despite that small number, the county's residents filled out 18,439 prescriptions for opioids last year.

While we tend to associate opioid addiction with Rust Belt states such as West Virginia or Ohio, the Sacramento Bee points out that rural areas in California have similar demographics as rural areas in any state, and face the same issues. Nearly 2,000 people died from opioid-linked overdoses in the state last year, and thousands of related emergency room visits as well.

Trinity isn't the only county in California with more opioid prescriptions than people. Four other counties, Lake, Shasta, Tuolumne and Del Norte, also had the same characteristic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these counties all shared similar demographics including, "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."

Last month National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded nine grants to help address the nation's opioid crisis. Of the nine grants, only one doctor west of the Mississippi received one. While we tend to see opioid addiction as a crisis in midwestern/Rust Belt states, it's an issue in rural areas throughout the country. 

The Trump administration has allocated $485 million to help solve the nation's opioid crisis, $45 million of which went to the state of California. But until much tighter restrictions are placed on opioids and safer alternatives (like, I don't know, marijuana!) are pushed onto patients instead, we'll probably barely make a dent in the problem. 

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