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Opioid Related Data for Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara Opioid Safety Coalition is committed to tracking the following indicators of opioid use, treatment and prevention initiatives, and the impact of opioid use on our community. We will be updating these indicators as well as adding new data elements as they become available. Please continue to check this page, or sign up for updates from the coalition.

Additional data on the opioid crisis in Santa Barbara County can be found in the following report: The Changing Overdose Crisis in Santa Barbara County: A Community Needs Assessment. The report was authored by Kendall Cortelyou, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida Director Data, Analytics, and Strategy, Project Opioid with assistance from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Robert Minter. Download the full report here.

Santa Barbara County’s Opioid Rx Rate Mirrors a Statewide Decline

The rate of opioid prescriptions began a notable decline in Santa Barbara County in 2016, but the rate has remained slightly but consistently higher than the state over the last decade. Overall, the opioid prescription rate declined by 38% from 2008 to 2020.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard

Opioid Prescription Rates Vary Across the County

Opioid prescription rates in one area of Santa Maria (zip code 93454) are more than twice as high as rates in Goleta. Overall, rates in Santa Maria and Lompoc are higher than the county, state and the Santa Barbara/Carpinteria region.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard

1 in 10 County 11th Graders Have Taken Prescription Pain Meds or Stimulants

The percentage of students at non-traditional schools who, for non-medical reasons, have ever taken prescription pain medications, opioids, tranquilizers, sedatives, diet pills, or other prescription stimulants is even higher (23%).

Source: California Healthy Kids Survey 2018-2019

Opioids Are the Drug of First Choice for 40% of Adults Seeking Treatment

Forty percent of the 1,538 adults admitted to County-funded treatment programs from April – June, 2022 reported that opioids were their primary drug of choice. Stimulant use (methamphetamines and cocaine) is also rising, cited by 24% of treatment clients as the primary drugs used.

Opioids were also reported as the primary drug of choice by 4% of youth in treatment.

Source: Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness Alcohol and Drug Programs

At Cottage Hospitals, Opioid ED Visits are a Regular Occurrence

The monthly average is the equivalent of roughly three individuals each day who come to one of the Cottage Hospitals (Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Santa Ynez) for an adverse event due to opioids.

Source: Cottage Health

Countywide ED Visits and Hospitalizations for Opioid Overdoses are Similar to California

Santa Barbara County is hardly immune to how the opioid epidemic impacts the health care system, with rates of ED visits and for opioid overdoses that are slightly higher to statewide rates, and rates for hospitalizations for opioid overdoses that are similar to those statewide.

Rates for ED visits and hospitalizations are a 12-month moving average ending in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard

Almost Twice a Week, Someone in Santa Barbara County Dies from an Overdose Involving Opioids

Overdose deaths that involved opioids increased from 38 in 2017 to 101 in 2021.  Most (74%) of these deaths in 2021 were due to Fentanyl. Deaths due to opioids represented 63% of all alcohol and drug related overdose deaths in 2021.

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner


Fentanyl and Stimulants Are Increasingly Involved in Overdose Deaths

There are often multiple drugs involved in an overdose death. In 2021, 47% of all alcohol and drug-related overdose deaths involved fentanyl, either alone or in combination with stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine. Stimulants were co-involved with opioids in 26% of overdose deaths.  Stimulants are increasingly being adulterated with fentanyl, often without the user’s knowledge.

The number of deaths involving fentanyl has increased from 12 in 2017 to 75 in 2021. The number of deaths involving stimulants in combination with opioids, has increased from 13 in 2017 to 41 in 2021.

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner

Deaths from Opioid and Stimulant Overdoses are Highest in South County

The number of overdose deaths involving opioids or stimulants are highest in South Santa Barbara County. However, the percentage of total countywide overdose deaths from these substances occurring in South County has declined from 63% in 2017 to 47% in 2021. The percentage of total deaths occurring in Mid County (a smaller, more rural population) has increased the most, from 16% in 2017 to 29% in 2021. The percentage of total deaths occurring in North County increased from 22% in 2017 to 25% in 2021.

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner

Opioid and Stimulant Overdose Deaths Increasing Among Transitional Age Youth

The tragedy of overdose deaths from opioids or stimulants is that it often strikes early in life. Overdose deaths in Santa Barbara County were highest in the 30-34 age group (16 deaths) in 2020.

However, in 2021 deaths peaked in both the 25-29 and 55-59 age groups. Sadly, deaths among 15-24 year olds (18) more than doubled from the previous year. All of these deaths were due to fentanyl. 

In 2021, deaths among 25-29 year olds (17) rose 89% from the previous year.

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner

Men are 3-4 Times More Likely than Women to Die from an Opioid or Stimulant Overdose

Over the past three years, overdose deaths from opioids and stimulants in Santa Barbara County were three to four times higher among men than among women, with the percentage of deaths among women slightly increasing in 2021 as compared to the two years prior.

Overdose victims are also overrepresented by males at 73% of the overdose victims, but only 50% of the population of Santa Barbara County.

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner

Whites are Overrepresented Among Overdose Death Victims; However Deaths Among Hispanics Are Growing

In 2021, 36% of the overdose deaths in Santa Barbara County were in the Hispanic population, while 57% were among the White population. Because Whites represent 43.8% of the County’s population and Hispanics represent 46%, there is an overrepresentation of White victims.

However, overdose deaths in the Hispanic population have increased about 114% (22 to 47) between 2019 and 2021, while White overdose deaths have increased 17% (65 to 76) during this same time.

Source: Santa Barbara Sheriff’ Coroner’s Data


In 2021, Naloxone Administration Saved at least 727 Lives in Santa Barbara County

Naloxone (Narcan), which is used to reverse overdoses from opioids and fentanyl, was administered in at least 727 cases in 2021, according to data from Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

Over the last four years, there were 1,101 self-reports of naloxone being used to reverse overdoses, according to data from Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness. This data does not include naloxone administered by first responders.


Local Use of Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Use Disorder is More Prevalent Than the Statewide Average

Buprenorphine, which is used to prevent opioid deaths and to increase retention in treatment programs, jumped by 115% over a decade, however has declined in 2019 and 2020. Use of buprenorphine is a sign of increasing access to opioid addiction treatment, and in Santa Barbara County the rate has remained higher than the state’s rate.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard