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Opioid Related Data for Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara County 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. However, the rate has remained slightly but consistently higher than the state average. Overall, the opioid prescription rate declined by 48% from 2016 to 2022.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard.

Opioid Prescription Rates Vary Across the County

Opioid prescription rates in the City of Santa Maria were almost twice as high as rates in Goleta in 2022. Overall, rates in Santa Maria and Lompoc are higher than the county, state and the City of Santa Barbara.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard

3% – 4% of High School Students Report Misusing Prescription Opioids

The percentage of students at public high schools and non-traditional schools who have reported having taken prescription pain medications (opioids) for non-medical reasons. Students in non-traditional schools are more likely to have misused pain medications, especially in Santa Barbara. Although the percentage of students who have reported using opioids may seem low, 4% of a sample size of 1,600 students equates to 64 students who are at-risk for opioid addiction in a single grade.

Source: California Healthy Kids Survey 2022-2023

Opioids Are the Drug of First Choice for 35% of Adults Seeking Treatment

Of the 2,138 adults admitted to County-funded treatment programs from April – June, 2023, 35% reported that opioids were their primary drug of choice. Stimulant use (methamphetamines and cocaine) is rising, cited by 25% of treatment clients as the primary drugs used.

Opioid use is also rising among the 253 youth admitted to County-funded treatment programs in this quarter, with 7% of youth reporting opioids as their primary drug of choice and 3.3% reporting stimulant use.

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

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Response to Adverse Events Related to Opioids 

Roughly every other day, a patient is treated at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for an opioid overdose. Cottage Hospital’s  Addiction Consultation Service identifies an average of 44 patients a month who are diagnosed with an Opioid Use Disorder. If appropriate, they are encouraged to begin Medication Assisted Treatment. In the past year, 190 patients chose to initiate MAT during their hospital stay.

Source: Cottage Health Addiction Consult Services data: April 2022 – April 2023

Countywide ED Visits for Opioid Overdoses are Higher Than the Statewide Rate

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

Rates for ED visits cited here are a 12-month rolling average ending in the second quarter of 2023. Rates for hospitalizations are a 12-month rolling average ending in the 4th quarter of 2022.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard

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 168 in 2022.  While all alcohol and drug related overdose deaths increased in 2023, the number of opioid related deaths decreased to 130. Deaths due to opioids represented 58% of all alcohol and drug related overdose deaths in 2023. Most (86%) of opioid related deaths in 2023 were due to Fentanyl. 

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 2023, 50% 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 23% 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 112 in 2023. The number of deaths involving stimulants in combination with opioids, increased from 13 in 2017 to 68 in 2022, declining slightly to 51 in 2023.

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 51% in 2023, while the percentage of total deaths occurring in North County increased from 22% in 2017 to 33% in 2023.  The percentage of total deaths occurring in Mid County (a smaller, more rural population) had been steadily increasing, however significantly declined from 28% in 2022 to 16% in 2023.  

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner

Opioid and Stimulant Overdose Deaths Peak Among 35-44 Age Groups in 2023

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 35-39 age group (24 deaths) in 2023. In general, overdose deaths in 2023 were higher among the age groups 40 years and older than they were in 2022. 

Sadly, in 2023 deaths among 20-24 year olds increased slightly from the previous year, from 7 deaths in 2022 to 9 deaths in 2023. 

Source: Santa Barbara County Coroner

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

Over the past four years, overdose deaths from opioids and stimulants in Santa Barbara County have been three to four times higher among men than among women.

Overdose victims are overrepresented by males at currently 71% 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 2023, 34% of the overdose deaths in Santa Barbara County were in the Hispanic population, while 62% 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 3.45 times (22 to 76) between 2019 and 2023, while White overdose deaths have increased 2.15 times (65 to 140) during this same time.

Source: Santa Barbara Sheriff’ Coroner’s Data

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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.

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

Buprenorphine is a mediation for opioid use disorder, and helps prevent opioid deaths and increase retention in treatment programs. Following a decline in 2019 – 2020, local use of buprenorphine is once again on the rise. An increase in the rate of prescriptions for buprenorphine is a sign of increasing access to opioid addiction treatment, and in Santa Barbara County the rate has remained somewhat higher than the state’s rate.

Source: California Opioid Surveillance Dashboard