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California, the opioid crisis and the criminal justice system

The numbers are staggering. Every day, 91 Americans die from opioid overdoses. Opioids kill more people than car crashes each year.

One death is still too many

States like West Virginia have been hit particularly hard by the epidemic, with 41 out of every 100,000 residents overdosing in 2015. California's rate is 11 out of every 100,000 residents. There's no consensus on why California hasn't been as hard. Possible reasons could be the state's demographics or the type of opioids available here.

What are opioids?

Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Common opioids are painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, as well as heroin and fentanyl.

Opioid treatment is available

The main goal of treatment is to help you stop using the drug and prevent future relapses. Effective, evidence-based treatments include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, which activate opioid receptors in the brain. This activation diminishes the drug's symptoms of craving and withdrawal.

Not everyone receives treatment

Researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health discovered that opioid users treated within the criminal justice system were 10 times less likely to receive "evidence-based treatments" - methadone as the primary example - than users referred who got treatment outside the system.

California drug court to the rescue

California offers a drug court program that provides an alternative to traditional criminal justice prosecution for non-violent drug-related offenses. However, it's not a given that prosecutors will automatically offer drug treatment options.

You need help to get help

Contact an experienced attorney to get treatment, not punishment. Having an advocate on your side who knows your best options can be life saving.

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