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San Diego Substance Use Disorder Stats

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Substance use disorders pose a growing public health crisis, including across the nation, statewide, and within our city. Below are some substance use statistics that reveal the impact of SUD on San Diego and the state of California. This impact is profound and can be devastating not only to the individuals battling with substance use disorders but also to their loved ones, who bear the consequences as well. Learn more about SUD, as well as the need for compassionate support and comprehensive intervention.

If you’re living in the San Diego area, you may be wondering, “How do I find detox treatment near me?” San Diego is home to some of the best pleasures our country has to offer, including beautiful beaches, year-round sunshine, outdoor activities, and a vibrant, family-friendly culture. Unfortunately, there are members of our community who are unable to fully experience or appreciate all that our city has to offer. Those who are struggling with a substance use disorder are often hindered in their capacity to experience everyday joys.


What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Repeated, prolonged consumption of alcohol or drugs can give rise to substance use disorders (SUDs), particularly in those who may use substances to cope with stressors. SUDs can have far-reaching consequences, causing physical and mental health problems, disrupting professional and educational pursuits, hindering self-care, and damaging personal relationships.

Additionally, frequent and sustained substance use can cause lasting changes in the brain, which also increases the risk of engaging in compulsive and destructive behaviors. These effects can make the already difficult journey toward recovery even more challenging for those who may seek to overcome their substance use disorders.

When discussing substance use disorders, there are several key terms to understand. For instance, it’s important to distinguish between substance dependence and abuse:

  • Substance Dependence – Dependence occurs when a person’s tolerance for a substance increases, and they feel as if they need the substance to function normally. They eventually experience withdrawal symptoms when they cease substance use, and repeated attempts to lessen or completely cease substance use are unsuccessful. Individuals can also demonstrate dependence when they feel or exhibit a loss of control over the use of a substance or when they use the substance in greater quantities, more often, or for longer than otherwise intended.
  • Substance Use Disorder – Substance use disorder is present when repeated, frequent use of a substance leads to difficulty or a failure to fulfill obligations or responsibilities at home, work, school, or any other areas of one’s life. This can also describe the continued use of a substance in circumstances that are harmful or otherwise physically hazardous.

Ultimately, we consider substance dependence and substance use disorder to be serious issues because of the harm that they cause to both the individual and those around them. They are, therefore, cause for great concern. It is important that everyone in the community recognizes this epidemic as a relevant issue, particularly when considering its prevalence in San Diego.
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Substance Use in California

Substance use is widespread in California, with half of all adults and teenagers in the state purporting to have recently consumed alcohol and a fifth reporting using marijuana over the past year. Improper or excessive use of alcohol or illicit substances can result in immediate and long-term health complications.

In order to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, an individual must exhibit qualities that fall within the definitions listed above and receive an evaluation by a qualified psychiatrist, psychologist, or drug and alcohol counselor. However, that evaluation typically occurs when individuals with SUD or their loved ones have already identified the signs of SUD. Unfortunately, California has trended higher than average when it comes to those struggling with substance use and those battling mental illness. Nearly a tenth of all Californians meet the criteria for substance use disorder. This is higher than the national statistic, with only 4% of US adults having a substance use disorder.

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Homelessness and Substance Use Disorder

Additionally, other issues often coincide with substance use disorders, such as homelessness and mental illness. As a state, California is home to 30% of all the homeless in the nation and half of all unsheltered persons. This is despite making up only 12% of the total population of the US. San Diego itself makes up just under 5% of the state’s homeless population.


Unfortunately, homelessness and substance use disorder are often intertwined, as the presence of one set of struggles can contribute to the occurrence and perpetuation of the other. This makes for a complex and interconnected relationship. For example, substance use can contribute to an individual becoming homeless through impaired judgments, strained relationships, financial difficulties, and a loss of employment. Homelessness itself can increase the risk of substance use, as individuals use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism to alleviate the challenges and hardships associated with being homeless.

Similarly, SUD and mental health issues are also intertwined. A recent survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that almost 40% of adults with SUD also report mental health disorders. Over 18% of all adults with mental illnesses also report having SUD.

Most Common Drugs in San Diego

Substance use disorders can manifest with the continued use of various substances. However, there are several in particular that have become the source of much of the SUD problem in San Diego.



What started as a powerful painkiller for those suffering from terminal diseases has gone on to surpass both car accidents and heart disease as the number one killer for those between the ages of 18 and 45. Part of what makes this substance so dangerous is its relatively low lethal dosage. The DEA considers a 2mg dosage lethal, which is an amount comparable to only about a dozen grains of salt.

The CDC has reported in recent years that fentanyl has been illegally manufactured and mixed with other drugs due to its low cost, potency, and highly addictive qualities. As a comparison, synthetic fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Manufacturing synthetic fentanyl has rapidly become a way to capitalize on what’s sold as a quick and cheap high for all age groups.

Fentanyl use has continued its rise in Southern California in recent years, with nearly 1,800 deaths being reported in San Diego County since 2017. The greatest number of fentanyl-related deaths for young adults aged 25 to 34 occurred in San Diego Uptown communities, including Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, North Park, Mission Hills, and University Heights.

By 2020, fentanyl had continued its concerning trend, with over a quarter of those who responded in a San Diego Association of Governments report disclosing they had unintentionally used it. As manufacturers will often combine fentanyl with other drugs to make them more addictive and less expensive, many individuals will inadvertently use it without prior intention to do so. As a result, fentanyl has been a contributor to an increasing number of unintentional drug-related deaths, with a 2022 report demonstrating that over half of all methamphetamine deaths in San Diego involved fentanyl.


Despite the recent rise in opioid use, methamphetamine (meth) has remained a continual issue in Southern California. As a powerful and addictive stimulant, meth affects the central nervous system and provides a sudden and strong high. Due to its tendency to fade as quickly as it comes on, people who use methamphetamines are prone to “binging” or engaging in repeated doses within a small time frame, often over a prolonged period.

Meth use and its associated harms have been on the rise in San Diego. The majority of adults who are arrested and booked are found to be drug-involved. Meth continues to be the drug of choice for those who are booked, accounting for over half of those reported.

Unfortunately, the price of meth is dropping while its potency is simultaneously increasing. These factors will ultimately lead to increased availability, a rise in usage, and an even higher risk of fatal overdoses.


Recent reports have shed light on a concerning trend in substance abuse involving the use of Xylazine in conjunction with opioids like fentanyl and heroin. Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer that poses severe risks to individuals who engage in its use. Because it’s not a controlled substance, it is seen as having a lower risk of law-enforcement scrutiny in the drug market. It’s also available at a remarkably low cost which adds to its attraction for suppliers.

When combined with opioids like fentanyl, Xylazine intensifies the already high potential for fatal overdoses to occur in those who use it. Physical dependence is particularly severe, with individuals reporting that withdrawal symptoms related to Xylazine are worse than those experienced from heroin or methadone.

Its use is presently limited in San Diego, but the DEA warns of its increasing presence across the nation. Treatment professionals in San Diego acknowledge the potential for its prevalence to escalate, mirroring the alarming rise of fentanyl in recent years.


Heroin is one of the major drugs of concern in San Diego County and Southern California. In 2015, heroin use was responsible for a significant number of treatment admissions in San Diego, accounting for around a third of all admissions. Overdose deaths related to heroin are mentioned as a rising concern in San Diego.

Like meth and fentanyl, heroin is supplied out of Mexico into Southern California, leading to many of the same concerns. While heroin seizures actually decreased by over 60% in a recent report by Customs and Border Patrol — and seizures of marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine decreased as well — seizures of fentanyl increased by 5%.

Treatment For Substance Use Disorder

Thankfully, substance use disorders can be both managed and addressed quite effectively with the right treatment. ‘Finding detox treatment near me’ is a common problem for many who want treatment but don’t know how to start the recovery process. Our luxury recovery center recognizes the value of facilitating positive change through behavioral therapy. We aim to empower individuals to embrace a healthier lifestyle by identifying and modifying self-destructive behaviors. By training patients to monitor their own behaviors, we are able to teach them how to manage circumstances that would otherwise lead to relapse.

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With most substance use disorders, combining behavioral therapy with carefully selected medications can often produce the best outcomes. The right medication can play a vital role in managing symptoms like withdrawal and will enhance the effectiveness of behavioral interventions. All medication-assisted treatment programs at Lilac Recovery Center are continuously monitored and administered under close supervision to avoid either over- or under-medicating.


Suggested Reading: Medication-Assisted Treatment and Long-Term Recovery

Evidence-Based Rehabilitation

When choosing luxury drug rehabs, consider both your unique situation and personal needs. It is very important that you ensure the facility relies on evidence-based therapy techniques. When treatment facilities employ proven strategies and use evidence to guide their programs, they are better able to provide effective care and improve patient outcomes. Long-term recovery is unlikely to be gained through experimental methods, which is why our team focuses on evidence-based practices.

Commitment to Confidentiality

Confidentiality is not only a legal requirement but is also a vital part of respecting each patient’s dignity and right to privacy. No one seeking help in overcoming substance use disorders should have to face discrimination or stigmatization of any kind. Our treatment center has a clear process in place to protect patient privacy and will never share any records with others without obtaining express written permission first.

Lilac: Among the Best Luxury Drug Rehabs in San Diego

The significance of mental health and personal well-being cannot be understated when it comes to addressing SUD in San Diego. Our minds are integral in influencing our ability to live a joyful and fulfilling life, and we must care for the members of our community and our state who are suffering from this public health crisis. Our San Diego treatment center offers comprehensive and compassionate care for a wide range of substance use disorders.


With our luxury approach to comfort and care and our person-first approach to offering help, our high-end hospitality and recovery center is a home for those who may not have had a haven in some time. The personalized approach at Lilac Recovery Center to your recovery regime is intended to help you overcome challenges in a gorgeous and relaxing setting. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. If you or someone you love has been struggling with substance use, find victory over those substances as you replace them with amazing meals, mindful meditation, massages, and top-rated medical treatment. Read more about Lilac, among the best luxury drug rehabs in San Diego.

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