The city of Banning is a community in Southern California that has highway connections to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as well as links to Mexico.

The population of Banning is about 31,000. The median age of residents in Banning is 39.9 years — slightly higher than the median age for Riverside County where the city is located. The median age for the county is 35.3 years. The poverty rate in Banning is about 23.2 percent, higher than the poverty rate of Riverside County (15.3 percent).

Drug Smuggling Route

Banning is right along one of the main smuggling lines from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel that passes through Riverside County in California.  There are stash houses en route to markets in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and even Canada. The network weaves its way through the same trucking lanes that carry other goods from Mexico.

In 2015, it was estimated that 2,546 pounds of methamphetamine that were confiscated was smuggled along this route and 395 pounds of the 2,249 pounds of heroin seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was smuggled along this route, making the city of Banning a prime area for drug activity.

Drug Treatment Admissions

Based on the data publicly available, admissions to community treatment centers in Riverside County are relatively low for illicit drugs like amphetamine or heroin compared to many other counties. According to the data in 2013:

  • 125 admissions for the treatment of cocaine abuse
  • 1,632 admissions for the treatment of cannabis abuse
  • 1,217 admissions for the treatment of opiate abuse
  • 2,978 admissions for the treatment of amphetamine abuse
  • 10,092 admissions for the treatment of alcohol abuse

According to the data, there was an increase in DUI (driving under the influence) accidents in the same year. The overall trend indicated a slight decline in the overall treatment admissions for substance use disorders, but an increase in the treatment admissions for alcohol abuse issues over the past two years.

Treatment for opioid abuse peaked in 2007 to 2008 and then went on a downward trend (with one minor upturn). There were more than 1,400 fewer admissions for the treatment of opiate abuse from 2012 to 2013 than there were in 2007 to 2008.

The Opioid Epidemic

The major focus of the authorities in Riverside County since the legalization of marijuana in California has been the opioid epidemic. Local figures from Riverside County indicate that a significant number of individuals were admitted to community treatment centers for opiate use disorders.

The community data does not take a count of individuals seeking treatment through private treatment centers for opiate abuse, nor does it accurately reflect the costs associated with the abuse of opiate drugs.

However, in 2017, Riverside County reported that 125 people died as a result of opiate overdoses. This was an increase from the 106 that occurred in 2016.

There were more than 1.5 million prescriptions for opiates written in Riverside County in 2017, with at least 244 hospitalizations involving opioid overdoses. Riverside County along with San Bernardino County filed a lawsuit against drug manufacturers because of this crisis.

Actions By The State Of California

Smaller cities like Banning most often rely on countywide and statewide actions and programs to curb substance abuse issues. There are numerous such state actions.

Senate Bill 482, which went into effect in October 2018, requires physicians authorized to prescribed opiates to check with the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (also referred to as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System [CURES]) before writing prescriptions to their patients.

This program has been effective in other states and is aimed at cutting down on individuals getting multiple prescriptions for opiates, refilling their opiates too soon, and getting opiates for conditions that do not require them.

The California Department of Public Health had previously launched the Statewide Opiate Safety Workgroup to develop collaborative strategies to curb opiate addiction. This workgroup was formed in 2014, and the initial guidelines for the PDMP were developed then. A formal bill to put this plan into action was not approved until recently.

Is It The Right Action?

The data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and numerous other sources indicates that prescription opioid overdose deaths peaked in the United States in 2009 and then leveled off, whereas overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl have increased since 2011.

Interestingly, the national trend is not evident in California where there are far more overdose deaths due to prescription opiates. The overdose death rate from prescription and illicit opiates remained relatively stable for many years but recently declined slightly.

The data regarding treatment admissions to community health centers indicate that alcohol abuse is a far more significant problem in Riverside County.

This problem is highlighted by the fact that 63 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions in Riverside County are for alcohol abuse.

Even though the overall rate of treatment admissions for substance abuse remained relatively stable, alcohol abuse admissions increased significantly over the past two reporting periods.

Relating The Data To The City Of Banning

Poverty rates and median ages can sometimes be reflective of the types of drugs that are more commonly abused in some localities. The slightly higher poverty rate in Banning compared to the rest of the county might be predictive of a potential rise in the abuse of substances that would be less expensive, such as alcohol, compared to prescription opiates, which would be far more expensive on the street.

Simply addressing prescription opiate abuse may not affect the overall substance abuse problem in Banning. Controls and increased treatment services for prescription opiate abuse should be pursued, but other substance abuse issues should not be neglected.

What Can The City Do?

Being a smaller community puts Banning at a slight disadvantage in its ability to develop funding for specific local community-based interventions. However, being a smaller community also gives it the power of being able to reach out to most of its residents with an effective program.

Banning is subject to the direction that Riverside County and the state of California choose to go in addressing the overall substance use disorder issue; however, it can make community initiatives to bring awareness about abuse of illicit opiates and other drugs, such as alcohol, amphetamines, and cannabis products.

This can help to decrease the stigma associated with the abuse of other substances. This type of approach might spur more attention to treating these other substance abuse issues.

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