San Francisco Drug Abuse Trends
Downtown San Francisco, California is known for its drug trade, especially in the Tenderloin—a neighborhood with a reputation for crime bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Geary Street and Market Street. Despite the presence of a police station in the Tenderloin, it’s not uncommon to witness drug deals or people getting high on the streets. The area has a history of violent crimes, gang activity and prostitution. The Tenderloin is also known for poverty and having a large homeless population.
Throughout the city of San Francisco, there are hotspots for certain drugs. Venture to Haight-Ashbury, and you’ll find a variety of psychedelics, ranging from psilocybin (‘shrooms’) to the mind-bending Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). In the Tenderloin, just a few paces from the police station, crack, heroin, PCP, and even bath salts can be had—sometimes all from the same dealer. On Market Street, the specialty is weed, though with a bit of querying, a wide variety of prescription pills are ripe for purchase.
In 2013 in San Francisco County, alcohol was the primary drug among substance abuse treatment admissions. Heroin was the second highest for treatment admissions, followed by cocaine and methamphetamine.
From 2012-2013, approximately 60 percent of treatment admissions in San Francisco were for alcohol.
There were 205 accidental drug-related deaths in San Francisco from 2010-2011.
In San Francisco County, 4,091 people received substance abuse treatment from 2012-2013.
Support Groups in San Francisco
There are many types of support groups that host meetings in San Francisco seven days a week. These groups have helped thousands of San Francisco residents achieve long-term sobriety by providing an opportunity to express their feelings with other people in substance abuse recovery.
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12-Step Support Groups
Support groups that follow the 12 Steps hold meetings all throughout the San Francisco area. There are many 12-step groups for various types of addictions, making it easy to adapt the 12 Steps to your own recovery needs.
Many people have found 12-Step programs to be incredibly helpful. These programs are spiritually based and emphasize the presence of God in recovery. Some of the 12-Step support groups you can find in San Francisco include:
San Francisco Addiction Treatment Services
San Francisco Community Behavioral Health Services (CBHS) offers a wide range of behavioral health programs for San Francisco residents. Within this department is the Community Substance Abuse Services (CSAS) division. CSAS helps those in the city and county of San Francisco who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
The Treatment Access Program (TAP) is another unit of CBHS. TAP is responsible for the assessment, referral and placement of people in need of behavioral health treatment, such as substance abuse treatment. Publicly funded treatment programs are available to those with Medicaid, called Medi-Cal in California, as well as those without insurance. Treatment services are provided at low-cost or no-cost in some cases.
Healthy San Francisco
The Healthy San Francisco program was designed by the state’s Department of Public Health to make health care services available and affordable to uninsured San Francisco residents – including substance abuse treatment services.
Residents may only qualify for Healthy San Francisco if they fit all of the following conditions:
- Aged 18 years or older
- Living on a combined family income at or below 500% of the Federal Poverty Level
- Be uninsured for at least 90 days
- Not eligible for public insurance programs such as Medi-Cal or Medicare
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Community Prevention and Harm Reduction Resources
The city of San Francisco has implemented a number of initiatives to combat rising rates of rampant drug abuse. Each of these serve a wide range of community needs – from harm reduction tactics to ensuring all residents have access to treatment, including those who are uninsured. San Francisco also leads the standard in treating prison populations who battle substance abuse through hands-on approaches that aim to reduce recidivism.
Bay Area DOPE Project
The DOPE Project, in conjunction with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, provides overdose education and harm reduction resources to the Bay Area community. It advocates for policies that support drug education programs while providing residents with the resources they need to prevent an overdose, such as naloxone distribution kits. Naloxone is an opiate antagonist medication that reverses the life-threatening effects of an overdose from heroin, methadone or other opiates.
Thanks to the efforts of the Project, naloxone administration training and take-home kits are available to the public to help prevent more overdoses.
Horizons is a youth development organization dedicated to helping at-risk children and teens of San Francisco realize their potential in life.
The organization provides an outpatient substance abuse treatment program for youths aged 12 through 25 that includes individual, group and family counseling. Participants learn how overcoming their addiction is possible through a variety of therapies and activities, as well as educational workshops.
Inmate Drug Treatment Programs
San Francisco has two programs that serve the city’s inmate population. Upon conviction of a drug-related offense, a court judge will assess the offender’s previous criminal record and determine eligibility for one of the programs. This decision is up to the judge’s discretion.
San Francisco Substance Abuse Crime Prevention Act (SACPA)
Many cities and states understand that some offenders who commit crimes do so because they struggle with addiction. In 2000, California passed SACPA to require probation and drug treatment, in lieu of incarceration, of all non-violent convicted drug offenders in the state. After the act passed, San Francisco adopted and enacted a county-wide plan to ensure all eligible drug offenders could get the help they need.
SACPA provides the following addiction treatment services to drug offenders who qualify:
- Intensive outpatient
- Day treatment
- Drug education
- Mentoring and life skills training
- Inpatient treatment
- Medication maintenance (e.g., methadone maintenance)
To qualify for the program, a person must either be: a first-time drug offender; on probation for a drug-related offense; or on parole with no prior convictions for a serious or violent felony. Treatment services are tailored to the individual and serve special populations, including: veterans, people with disabilities, pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals and those who are or are at risk of becoming homeless.
San Francisco’s drug court is an alternative to traditional jail time that combines treatment and therapy with the teaching of life skills for long-term sobriety. The idea of drug court is to prevent participants from relapsing into substance abuse, thus hopefully reducing criminal activity.
The drug court program of San Francisco has four phases:
- Establish the Foundation for Recovery
- Find Positive Ways to Change Your Life
- Embrace Recovery and Wellness
- Follow Your Personal Goals for Long-term Success
Progression through each of the stages is based on a participant’s performance. Good performance is measured by a participant’s level of engagement in the program, how well they follow the judge’s orders, and their on-time arrival for meetings and any required drug tests. A participant will also receive rewards (known as incentives in the program) for good performance, including gift cards, fewer court hearings or faster progression through the program. After completing each of the drug court’s phases, participants are able to graduate from the program and celebrate their accomplishment with family and friends.
Having somebody who’s been used to having drugs, getting drugs, using drugs every day of their lives – and now they are drug free and have legal income and have a place to live – provides them with some wonderful tools to go forward and live a crime-free existence.
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