Emergency room visits stemming from opioid use increased by 141% in Orange County from 2005 to 2015, with large numbers of patients coming from Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Anaheim and Santa Ana, according to a study released this week by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
More recently, between 2011 and 2015, 7,457 Orange County residents went to an emergency room for treatment of opioid addiction or overdose, according to the report.
Anaheim residents — with 782 cases — sought ER help most often during that four-year period. Huntington Beach, with 726 cases, was a close second. Santa Ana had the third-most cases with 631, and Costa Mesa was fourth with 559, according to the data.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, opioids are powerful pain-reducing drugs that include prescription oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, among others.
“These medications can help manage pain when prescribed for the right condition and when used properly. But when misused or abused, they can cause serious harm, including addiction, overdose and death,” according to the FDA.
In line with national trends, Orange County has seen an increase in drug overdose deaths in the past 15 years, according to the health agency.
“Drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, which is alarming,” Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said in a statement. “There must be a community effort of individuals, private and nonprofit organizations and the government to reduce the number of people dying in this completely preventable manner.”
Anaheim had 123 opioid-related deaths from 2011 to 2015, the most in the county, according to the study. Huntington Beach had 106, the second-most.
Santa Ana had 91 deaths and Costa Mesa 65, according to the report.
The majority of overdoses were accidental, and more than half the opioid-related deaths stemmed from overdoses of prescription medications. Deaths caused by illicit opioids like heroin accounted for 19% of overdose cases, according to the study.
Residents ages 18 to 34 were most likely to visit an emergency room because of an opioid overdose, the report states.