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By Eric Heinz

The Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHA) released a grim report on Tuesday, April 25, that stated the county saw an increase in drug- and alcohol-related deaths from 2013 to 2015.

According to the report, San Juan Capistrano had 34 drug- and alcohol-related deaths between 2013 and 2015, with most of them occurring in the latest recorded year. The city ranked fifth-highest among all municipalities in Orange County in the three-year average per population. The county’s trend has also been rising since 2013.

“…Cities with relatively higher overdose deaths tended to include coastal cities followed by South County locales,” the report stated. “More specifically, Laguna Woods had the highest overdose death rate at 50.8 per 100,000, followed by Dana Point (40.1), Seal Beach (33.8), Laguna Beach (31.4), and San Juan Capistrano (31.2).”

Nine of San Juan Capistrano’s deaths in that time frame were directly related to prescription drugs, which were verified by the Orange County Coroner’s Office.

Additionally, San Juan Capistrano was ranked sixth among cities in Orange County for hospitalizations related to drug and alcohol abuse, with 30.3 per 10,000 residents. Dana Point’s rate of hospitalizations was ranked first in the county, with 44.6 hospitalizations per 10,000 people. San Clemente ranked fourth with a three-year average of 33.1 people per 10,000 being hospitalized.

Of the coroner-investigated deaths, 48.1 percent of all of Orange County’s accidental deaths from 2013-2015 were caused by prescription medication, and 24.5 were caused by illicit drugs.

Deputies, crime scene investigators and other OCSD and medical personnel in Orange County now carry Naloxone, a nasal spray that may save people who are experiencing an opioid overdose from drugs such as oxycodone or heroin. That program started in fall of 2015.

In 2016, the federal government passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which expanded access to Naloxone, increased access to medication-assisted treatment and prescription drug monitoring programs, created an inter-agency task force, and increased education programs on prescription and illicit drugs, specifically heroin. The Food and Drug Administration now has to refer applications for new opioid drugs to an advisory committee to seek recommendations. It also requires the FDA’s pediatric advisory committee to create the framework of labeling certain medication.

To view the full report, click here: 

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