Residents of Palm Springs enjoy its temperate climate and opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. Like the rest of the country, Palm Springs is dealing with substance abuse problems within its borders.

Palm Springs

The city of Palm Springs is located in Riverside County, California. About 2.4 million people are living in Riverside County, and Palm Springs has a population of around 48,000, with a median age of 53.7 years. The median age in Palm Springs is significantly higher than the 35.3 median age for all of Riverside County.

The poverty rate in Palm Springs California is right around 19.5 percent, higher than the poverty rate for Riverside County, which is about 15.3 percent.

Palm Springs has seen a rise in crimes in the past several years, according to a recent article in the Desert Sun. Police attributed the increase in the crime rate to the town being presented as a tourist attraction, which also attracts criminals. A common bedfellow of crime in any city is substance abuse.

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Rates Of Substance Use & Abuse

The data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is not broken down by city, but data can be extracted for various counties in specific states. Past-year use of the following drugs for Riverside County is reported by SAMHSA (compiled for 2014 to 2016):

  • About 13.3 percent of the county’s population admitted to past-year marijuana use.
  • Roughly 0.19 percent of the population admitted to past-year heroin use.
  • Around 1.69 percent admitted to past-year cocaine use.
  • It was estimated that 6.37 percent of the population met the criteria for a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder in the year before the survey.

Estimates are for individuals ages 12 and older.

Drug Use Reaches All Age Levels

Since California legalized recreational marijuana, police have been finding that there is a trend of more underage students who have been caught possessing marijuana. Because of its greater availability, these students are now more easily getting their hands on the substance.

School administrators have seen a sharp rise in the possession of THC oils in vaping pens and marijuana edibles on school property since the legalization of marijuana in the state. The Palm Springs Unified School District is considering tightening up its approach to drug use and abuse violations.

The Homeless Are Hit Hard By Drug Use

According to the Desert Sun, the homeless are particularly vulnerable to illicit drug use and abuse. Homeless individuals in Palm Springs are known to be frequent users of heroin and methamphetamine, which complicates the situation with the homeless in the city even further.

Police report that the homeless would rather spend what little resources they have on getting very potent and dangerous drugs of abuse instead of buying food. Some feel the use of these substances helps to numb the distress associated with their living situation.

Measures To Deal With Drug Abuse In Palm Springs

Although a good proportion of Riverside County has not been affected by an increase in opiate overdose deaths or by the opioid epidemic to the extent that other communities in California have, it has still seen its share of disturbing deaths caused by opioid overdoses over the past several years.

Several areas of Palm Springs recorded some of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the entire county in 2017. Some government officials are attempting to connect the sharp upturn in overdose deaths with rates of prescription opioids that are written in the county.

One of the approaches to deal with the situation is to get individuals into treatment and have them use opiate replacement medications like Suboxone to deal with their abuse of opiates. It is believed that medically assisted treatments for opioid abuse are underutilized.

In 2017, Riverside County and San Bernardino County filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opiates to hold these corporations accountable for the opioid crisis in the U.S.

State Actions Also Emphasize The Opiate Crisis

The California Department of Health Care Services is pushing its Opioid Strategic Plan. The goal is to develop a network of providers to provide medical treatment for individuals with opioid use disorders. This includes an increase in funds from the federal government to address the opioid crisis.

The idea behind the plan is prevention since opioid addiction often begins with the treatment of chronic pain and then moves on to abuse. The plan attempts to understand the relationship between the medicinal treatment of pain and later addiction to opioids.

The actions by the state also emphasize the control of prescription opiate drugs and treatment for opioid use disorders while not addressing other issues with the same level of commitment. State-funded policies for prescription medications, prescription opioid monitoring programs, treatment of opioid addiction, and similar measures tend to downplay the issues with other drugs in the state, including the use of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine and even alcohol, which are abused at significant rates according to SAMHSA.

A Snag In Ensuring That Quality Treatment Is Provided

According to a recent article in The Orange County Register, California state law requires that residential care facilities that accommodate six or fewer residents are classified in the same category as single-family homes. The residents in such a treatment program are considered to be a family for zoning purposes.

This also means that these facilities are not subject to many of the regulations, business taxes, permits, and other requirements that would normally be placed on a residential treatment facility. As a result, there has been an increase in smaller residential treatment facilities.

These smaller residential treatment units are taking advantage of this zoning application to deliver treatment, sometimes substandard, to individuals with substance use disorders who need treatment. Essentially, the clients in these programs are being taken advantage of because there is no way to formally guarantee that the treatment they are being given meets the standards set by the state.

The city of Palm Springs attempted to classify some of these recovery centers as assisted living facilities, but it was sued for discrimination. The situation has not been resolved at the time of this writing, but it represents part of the problem with the regulation of substance abuse treatment in many cities and the need for better standards and guidelines.

The Bigger Issue

While a move in right direction, the Palm Springs initiative to ensure medical treatment for opioid use disorders does not address numerous issues, including children using marijuana and the homeless being vulnerable to abuse of illicit drugs. Problems with alcohol abuse, health-related issues due to other drug overdoses, and abuse of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are not addressed to the same extent as opioid abuse.

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