Addiction Problems and Local Solutions in Downey, California
Downey drug rehabs and substance abuse treatment centers offer services for those suffering from addiction.
Downey, a city in Los Angeles County, was named after John G. Downey who served as governor of California from 1860 to 1862. Downey was an Irish-American and the only California governor born outside of the United States until Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected in 2003. It was John G. Downey who first introduced oranges to the region, somehow anticipating that the fruit would become one of California’s biggest cash crops.
Downey was founded in 1873 but not incorporated until 1956. The city’s population was last tallied at 113,407, and the median age is 34. It’s a prosperous city, with a median household income above the national median household income, and an unemployment rate of only 3.6 percent.
Downey is considered part of the densely populated area called the “Gateway Cities,” that urbanized part of Southeast Los Angeles County that’s hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles, and Orange County.
Downey is where the Apollo Space program was born, and is also the Carpenters’ (Richard and Karen) hometown as well as the birthplace of Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to producing many agricultural products, Downey has produced military aircraft and is the site of many great aviation and space projects.
Location Plus Population Density Equals Lots of Trafficking
Downey is part of a HIDTA—a high intensity drug trafficking area—no doubt due to its location as a port of entry to the country via the Pacific Ocean and the border with Mexico. Because of its dense population and the ready availability of a wide spectrum of controlled substances, addiction is a definitely problem in Downey.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office reports that the nearly 400 opioid overdose deaths recorded in the county are probably underreported, as are near deaths from overdose. And despite the scary image portrayed of shady deals on dark street corners carried about by vicious gangs and presided over by evil cartels, most prescription opioids are obtained from, friends, family members, or the family doctor.
Surprisingly some drugs, the deadly fentanyl in particular, are often ignored in Downey as they arrive from China and Mexico and pass through en route to other cities and states. Downey inhabitants do succumb to fentanyl overdose, but at a rate lower than that recorded in other parts of the country.
Some experts have suggested that overuse of opioid painkillers may be a cultural issue, pointing out that Asians and Hispanics, of which much of the citizenry of Downey is comprised, tend not to demand painkillers as often as do Caucasians.
Should we really be blaming the doctors?
Fingers have often been pointed at doctors who overprescribed the new painkillers, but evidence shows that although there were a few fraudulent doctors most were very conscientious about patient welfare and had simply been abiding by the rules.
Part of the problem was the system itself. In 2006 California’s AB 2198 obliged physicians to provide pain relief to patients suffering from intractable pain regardless of whether or not the patient was suffering for the first time or was addicted. Those who refused could be penalized under the law or subject to liability.
The pharmaceutical companies who responded to this mandate by developing more powerful but also more dangerous and addictive painkillers were also penalized when patients became addicted, overdosed, or turned to heroin when the prescription painkillers were no longer available to them.
Alcoholism Rate in Downey
The opioid crisis has in recent years garnered the lion’s share of public attention in the U.S., but alcoholism is still a major problem. Current estimates show that 61 percent of adults in America drink alcohol and that of those 32 percent binge drink on at least one day in the last year.
The cost of heavy drinking manifests itself in part in vehicle accidents, heightened violence, and even murder, not to mention the risk of liver disease. Studies have shown that the more readily available alcohol is, the more people will drink. Los Angeles County Public Health has been trying to stem alcohol consumption by educating youth as to the dangers of alcohol consumption and reducing the prevalence of outlets that sell alcohol.
California Drug Possession Laws
California divides crimes of drug possession into two categories:
1). Simple possession, and
2). Possession with the intent to sell.
The state law also distinguishes between crimes related to narcotics and crimes related to marijuana.
Many formerly serious possession offenses were reclassified, after 2014’s Proposition 47, as misdemeanors, and those undergoing sentences under the former classification were permitted to petition the court for resentencing.
In 2016 California voted to decriminalize recreational marijuana, allowing anyone 21 and over to buy and possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana without fear of arrest. Strictures were placed on where the product could be stored or consumed. The limits are the same for consumers of medical marijuana, but those whose doctors recommend marijuana to treat their maladies don’t have to pay sales tax. Cultivation requires a city permit.
Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Something that gives Californian marijuana consumers cause for concern is that the Trump administration overturned the former administration’s commitment to stop enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that had made their own laws regarding recreational and medical use of marijuana.
Cities are free to ban marijuana sales, and Downey is one city that has banned all marijuana sales, despite the new state law.
There’s always hope for you
Sometimes our need to find something greater is so powerful that we’re willing to accept any means of getting there. Sometimes the things that offer us freedom and transcendence end up becoming our slave masters.
If this is you, please make use of our resources to help yourself get on the road to recovery before it’s too late.
What are they doing to combat the drug problem?
The medical community is now, in response to the opioid epidemic, shifting its views on pain treatment. No longer can doctors hold the view that pain should not be tolerated, as it was this stance that lead to the development and aggressive marketing and overprescribing of dangerously powerful and addictive drugs. The attitude among doctors now is to pursue a tolerance for pain which allows patience to continue life as usual as opposed to attempting to remove pain completely.
The Substance Abuse Prevention and Control, a division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has worked with a medical coalition to create an effective approach to the current crisis. Action teams concentrate on a series of goals, including:
- Encouraging and supporting safe prescribing
- Increasing access to the overdose antidote naloxone
- Increasing access to medications that treat addiction
- Setting up safe drug disposal methods and educating the public on what to do with unused, unneeded medications
- Using a database to monitor opioid prescribing
- Educating the community
Medical professionals can now join Safe Med LA to be a part of the solution.
We’ve already seen that attempts to address the crisis can cause negative repercussions, and so this and similar groups are implementing multifaceted approaches to the crisis in order to avoid disasters similar to the one incurred when opioid painkillers were reduced in circulation, a well-intentioned move which unfortunately resulted in addicts turning to heroin in desperation when the prescription drugs became scarce. Safe Med LA recognizes that treating addiction itself is a major part of resolving the problem.
Addicts Abandoned to the Streets
While Proposition 47 freed more than 13,500 drug addicts from the toxic environments of California’s overcrowded prisons and allowed those released to apply for jobs without having to admit to having been in jail, it left many with nowhere to go, jobless, and sorely in need of treatment and a new start. On the outside drugs are more readily available and temptations abound.
The state’s social service programs were unprepared for the demands that would be placed on them once Prop 47 became law. Those with dual diagnoses (addiction plus a mental health disorder) too often found themselves doomed to homelessness and petty crime.
Prop 47 has been a huge success, but it now falls to local governments to provide the treatment resources necessary for the newly freed prisoners to get their lives together.
The entire situation echoes the catastrophe that took place in the sixties and seventies when the government finally made good on its promise to close down the mental asylum system. The government failed, however, in its promise to meet the needs of the released patients with community mental health centers, and the freed were basically hung out to dry, lacking the medical, physical and social resources that might have allowed them to lead healthy lives. Many of the mentally ill found their way into the prison system—the same prison system that’s now turning them out with nowhere to go.
Reform groups like Drug Policy Alliance are all about repairing the whole system, not just one part of it, providing supports to those moved from one part of the system to another or simply jettisoned from one facility without anything there to meet them when they come out.
Long-term inpatient treatment centers have been scientifically proven to be the most effective means of helping the seriously addicted get clean and sober and stay that way. But even in California such centers are underfunded, scarce, and require addicts to wait too long before being admitted.
Efforts to get more funding to buttress the addiction treatment system are seen as absolutely essential to beating the opioid crisis. The millions of dollars saved when Prop 47 drastically reduced the costs of incarceration in the state have yet to be diverted into the resources needed to treat the large number of addicts and the mentally ill that the prisons have released. This is despite the fact that for one person to go through recovery program for a year costs only a third of what it would cost to keep the same individual in prison for that length of time, and that every addict who manages to successfully graduate from the program saves on social costs later.
In March of 2018 a bill was introduced to remove barriers to medication assisted therapy for opioid addicts. AB 2384 runs counter to the move to reduce the number and quantity of opioid painkiller prescriptions by assuring that addicts in need of emergency care can be quickly administered the medications that can save their lives.
The California Medical Association has set up a prescribing resource page to help physicians prescribe safely and effectively to ease a patient’s pain.
Harm Reduction in Downey
Harm reduction is one of the more controversial topics in recovery. Essentially the term refers to any practice that can keep addicts safe until they can get into recovery treatment. For those who wish to eliminate drug abuse from society, harm reduction initiatives (like providing free clean needles, the availability of narcan for overdose emergencies, and the promise not to arrest those who call in overdose emergencies) appear to be supporting addiction rather than stopping it. Elected officials tend not to give much lip service to initiatives in aid of those largely seen as marginalized—the homeless, sex workers, and petty criminals. But for those with loved ones battling addiction, any practice that can keep the addict alive until they find lasting solutions is a godsend.
In Los Angles County harm reduction is often delivered by organizations aiding the homeless.
The Los Angeles Overdose Protection Task Force, a coalition of government and community members committed to developing overdose prevention programs and policies, setting up long-term working relationships with a wide spectrum of stakeholders.
Drug Courts in Downey
Prop 47, as beneficial as it has been, has had the unfortunate result of diminishing the effectiveness of drug courts. Formerly developed as an alternative to conventional sentencing, drug courts offer addicts the option to enter treatment as opposed to being incarcerated. On successful completion of a long-term recovery treatment program, offenders can get the charges against them dropped.
The program has seen significant success across the country, lowering prison costs and reducing recidivism and enabling addicts to live clean, sober, constructive lives.
When Prop 47 reduced many former drug offences to the status of misdemeanors it effectively removed from many addicts the means and motivation to seek recovery.
Addiction Recovery Resources
California falls behind other states, notably Vermont, in being willing to use medication to assist detox and addiction treatment. Californians have been more in favor of a social model (e.g. the 12-step recovery system) and have been reluctant to pursue drug treatments for drug addiction, in spite of mounting evidence that certain medications, such as buprenorphine, can be highly effective in preventing relapse. Although the system still has its detractors, California is now beginning to copy and adapt Vermont’s system, and Los Angeles County is one of the areas in which the system is being tested.
What to Expect Entering Treatment in Downey, California
The assessment phase is when you’ll be examined by a doctor to ensure that you are in fact suffering from substance abuse and addiction and are in sound enough mental and physical health to be able to undergo treatment. This initial interview will last nearly a half hour, and a further more detailed interview may be scheduled for you before intake.
You’ll be admitted to the program, payment arrangements will be made, and you will instructed on the following:
- What to bring into the treatment center
- What not to bring into the treatment center
- The treatments center’s rules
- A reminder that you will be expected to abide by the program’s demands and do your best to pursue recovery, abstaining from drugs and working the program to the best of your ability
- If you haven’t already, you’ll be admitted to a detoxification period
During the detox process you’ll be weaned off the drugs to which you’re addicted. In California at the moment this may or may not be assisted by medications to help you endure the withdrawal symptoms, but you will be kept safe and medically supervised until you test drug free.
You’ll also learn all about what addiction does to the body and why it’s so destructive.
This step is essential to the success of the entire recovery treatment program.
As for the long-term inpatient treatment you’ll be undergoing, this typically takes three, six, nine, or twelve months, or more, depending on the facility and the type of treatment chosen for you.
Below are just a few of the treatment approaches you may encounter in one of the better treatment facilities in Downey:
Cognitive behavioral—the development of problem-solving and learning skills.
EMDR—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, an integrative approach to relieving psychological stress.
TRM—Trauma Resiliency Model, an approach that restores balance to mind and body following traumatic experiences.
Motivational Interviewing—a counseling style developed to help clients become motivated for behavior change.
Psychodynamic/relational—sometimes called insight-oriented therapy, this approach helps clients understand themselves and how past events may trigger present behaviors.
Somatic experiencing—helping the client to focus on their bodily feelings in order to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Inpatient treatment facilities also provide counseling, education, work opportunities, as well as artistic and physical activities.
This term refers to services given to clients on a visitation as opposed to a live-in basis. This may involve counseling, peer support, drug testing, and medical treatments. Those in Intensive Outpatient (IOP) care can expect a more structured treatment plan.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong endeavor, certainly not ending once you’ve graduated successfully from a long-term inpatient program. The program itself will have helped you make life changes, set goals, and connect with resources in your community so that you can avoid relapse. Sometimes this includes moving to a transitional living accommodation to keep you from the triggers and temptations of going right back into your former environment.
Let Us Help You Help Yourself
We’re ready to help you breathe life anew, clean and sober. Many of us are also recovered addicts—we’ve been there, and we know how hard it is. We’re also aware of the great blessing that is recovery, and are eager to pass that on to you.
All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for.
Every treatment step that we did, this weight just kept being lifted and lifted and lifted and I was free. All of a sudden I was light again. I felt like a child, like, oh my god, I can literally start over again. I don’t have to be defined by my past but what I’m trying to do today to change.
~Rochelle Solombrino, now more than seven years sober