Addiction and Recovery in Oakland, California
Oakland’s status as a major west coast port city in the heart of a hedonistic culture renders it a heavy business area for drug marketers. On the other hand, the city’s social conscience compels it to create fair and innovative solutions for harm reduction, crisis intervention, and rehabilitation.
Oakland is a large port city in the San Francisco Bay area and the county seat of Alameda County, California. In 2016 its population was nearly half a million.
The city boasts the highest number of artists per capita of any American city. Its communities, including the downtown, the Central Business District, East Oakland, Lake Merritt, and the Oakland Hills, have worked together to transform urban areas into thriving, vibrant art scenes that can easily be explored on foot. The city has also traditionally been a haven for musical artists of all stripes, and still produces amazing jazz, blues, hip-hop, and other genres.
In comparison with other American cities the economy appears to be stable. A widespread sense of social justice ensures that denizens receive a living minimum wage and paid sick leave.
But this city, rich in culture, social conscience, and fine weather, has its dark side. For one thing, Oakland ranks number one among the nation’s cities in frequency of robberies. It’s murder rate places it seventh among America’s deadliest cities.
And then there’s the drug crisis.
A Conduit for Contraband
Oakland is at the center of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), so designated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in order to ensure that sufficient resources get funneled in its direction. This is to help local law enforcement deal with a trafficking problem greater than the national average.
Why is Oakland a conduit for contraband drugs? For one thing, it’s a port city ideally situated to receive deliveries of all kinds of drugs, by land, sea, and air, from all over the world, and to act as a distribution point for getting drugs out to other parts of the country.
But these forms of delivery now find themselves with an extremely amenable though totally menacing helper: the “dark web.”
The Dark Web
The dark web’s creators have developed software allowing them to enter and exit the internet without their presence or movements being detected. Dark web content is hidden by “darknets,” or overlay networks that hide them from all but designated users. Here people can communicate and do business, including drug deals, without being noticed by authorities.
They achieve secrecy by sending a message to multiple places at the same time in order to force a hacker or investigator to lose track of them. (It would be like being chased by police dogs and being able to divide yourself into a hundred clones, throwing the dogs off your real location.) The dark web has done much to enhance sales of the deadly fentanyl, the drug that killed Prince and that’s also responsible, alone or in combination with other drugs, for many deaths in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Most of the drugs ordered on the Dark Web are shipped through the U.S. Postal Service, which is not legally permitted to inspect any first class mail without a warrant.
The government and justice system are busy scrambling for solutions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that he’d set up a law enforcement team run by the FBI, the DEA, and other agencies. The team is called Joing Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement, or J-CODE. The initiative will double the FBI’s investment in bringing the online drug marketplace down, enlisting many special agents, intelligence analysts, and other specialists to concentrate on eliminating online trafficking.
Sessions has also assigned prosecutors the task of investigating health care fraud in areas with a high concentration of opioid addiction.
Opioid Deaths Low Per Capita in California
Despite the easy availability of drugs in California, the per capita death toll from drug overdoses—11 deaths per 100,000 denizens reported in 2015—is comparatively low, certainly compared to 41 deaths per 100,000 in hard-hit West Virginia.
Why death rates from drug overdoses are lower in California is still a mystery to public health experts, but some speculate that the lower rate may be due to doctors in rural areas prescribing more painkillers than to patients in mostly urban California. Also, the sad fact that doctors are less likely to respond to complaints of pain from nonwhite patients would mean that doctors in racially diverse California would be writing fewer prescriptions for heavy duty painkillers.
The lower death rate from drug overdoses may also be related to the different kind of heroin available to Californians. The heroin sold to the east of the Mississippi is nearly always a white powder, but the heroin sold in the west is black tar heroin—hard to use and even harder to mix with other drugs, such as the deadly fentanyl.
Researchers have also found that in places where people have easy access to plentiful marijuana (true of California in general because of loosening marijuana laws) people are less likely to use opioids.
Despite the low per capita death rate, California’s high population means a higher than average number of deaths in the state, and community stakeholders have gathered to try to brainstorm solutions.
Many of the opioid deaths are born out of a hedonistic youthful urges which fifty years ago might have resulted in a a few comparatively harmless experiments with soft drugs. But today Oakland teenagers don’t always know what they’re buying and consuming on the street or at parties, with tragically irreversible consequences.
If you’ve fallen victim to substance abuse, know that the sooner you kick the habit and rehabilitate, the sooner you can get your life back, and maybe even save it. We’re on your side! Call us to help you navigate the resources in Oakland that are pertinent to your individual needs.
Harm Reduction: Needle Exchange in Oakland
There are several needle exchange programs operating in Oakland now, thanks to the people seeing the need for clean needles as a social issue requiring a zealous activism.
A Climate of Legal Leniency
Penalties for possession of drugs in California depend on the drug, the quantity, and the reason why the defendant appears to have it. But the Californian zeal for social justice would rather err on the lenient side than be harsh or unbalanced in the administration of justice.
A case in point: In 2014 voters passed Proposition 47, which made many formerly serious possessions offenses punishable as misdemeanors and permitted state prisoners serving time for possession to petition the court for resentencing. In 2016 Proposition 64 essentially decriminalized moderate and controlled possession and use of marijuana, allowing adults 21 and over to buy up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and up to 8 grams of concentrated marijuana to consume in their homes or in licensed establishments.
Another progressive move was made this January when the city’s first Cannabis Dispensary Permits were given out to those with prior convictions for crimes related to marijuana. Oakland determined that those who had formerly been economically oppressed by the justice system should now be first in line for city licenses allowing them to open their own marijuana dispensaries.
A race and equity analysis report commissioned by the city made sure that permits entered the hands of ethnic groups previously penalized unfairly by the system. One alarming finding of this report was that in 2015 African Americans comprised 30 percent of the population and 77% of cannabis arrests. White offenders made up only four percent.
In 1991 the first Drug Court in California, the Oakland-Piedmont-Emeryville Municipal Court Drug Court, now called the Alameda County Consolidated Drug Court, was set up to offer defendants charged with drug possession an opportunity to rehabilitate as opposed to entering the penal system. The main services of the Drug Court are provided by the Alameda Probation Department, community treatment providers, and the Court’s Services Office.
Defendants are assessed, interviewed, and matched with the mode of treatment specific to their needs. All modes of treatment, whether inpatient, outpatient, or residential require regular drug testing. The participant is also assessed for mental health, underlying, medical conditions, academic skills, and motivation. They’re also aided in developing vocational skills and entering the work force.
Rehabs in Oakland
There are various steps involved in addiction treatment and recovery. Having knowledge of them can help just about anyone understand how treatment is done. Here is a list of FAQ about rehab to look over.
No matter the substance or substances being used, it is possible to have a happy, healthy life after addiction. The road to recovery can be long and takes many forms, but there are certain steps you can count on in the process.
Oakland’s addiction treatment centers have teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, licensed mental health professionals, certified addiction counselors and many others on staff to aid and support an addicted patient through every step of recovery. Centers generally accept patients in person or by referral.
The intake process generally includes at least one interview, a medical exam, and an orientation process. This is a very important stage as a proper assessment leads to appropriate treatment and hence better results.
Detox, during which the patient’s drug consumption is cut off and the drug given time to be eliminated from his or her body, can take up to thirty days. During this time the patient can receive counselling, group therapy, and education to help them avoid relapse once released. This is an essential stage of rehabilitation as the patient must be clean in order to benefit from any treatment. However, relapse occurs far less often after longer inpatient stays, in hospital, treatment centers, or residential facilities.
Oakland’s long-term addiction treatment centers can house patients for three to six months but there are residential facilities that ask that patients commit to at least a year. A number of these facilities have embraced the diversity of the local community, developing programs geared to the special needs of those with underlying mental health issues. Sadly, those with mental health problems are likely to have problems with substance abuse as well, so professionals equipped to deal with both conditions form the teams that administer Dual Diagnosis Programs.
Treatment centers also recognize and try to meet the unique challenges of LGBTQ people, people from specified ethnic groups, veterans, the deaf, and people from specified faith communities.
Oakland also has intervention programs for loved ones unwilling to wait until an addicted friend or family member hits a low point before seeking help on their own. When we consider the danger of even recreational drug consumption these days, intervention looks less paternal and more necessary. The difficulty in these intervention programs is getting the addicted person to admit to themselves that their addiction is both self-destructive and potentially deadly—and that isn’t always easy.
Participants can expect a number of demands from inpatient and residential programs, such as the following:
- Submit to regular drug testing
- Participate in group activities
- Participate in chores
- Seek outside employment if this is necessary to paying for time in the residence
- Undergo counselling
Oakland has many facilities that provide outpatient treatment, a service often demanded by those unable for any number of reasons to live in a residential setting long-term. Outpatient services include medical checkups, counselling, education and group therapy in order to avoid relapse.
If you or someone you care about is slipping into the dangerous and ultimately doomed world of addiction, help is near at hand. Call us and let us connect you with the treatment facility and program best suited to your needs!