Many factors come together to make California a major hub for substance abuse. Sprawling urban areas, close proximity to Mexico, and large numbers of people living in poverty all play a role.

Treatment admissions topped 122,000 in 2018, and they continue to rise as drugs like heroin, amphetamines, and marijuana impact the area.

Here are the top five most abused drugs for California right now:

#1: Amphetamines

Amphetamines are a class of drug that covers both prescription medications and street drugs like meth. These drugs are commonly called ‘uppers’ on the street. These stimulant drugs give users a euphoric high and a burst of energy, which is followed by an intense crash that leaves them craving more.

Check out these stats about amphetamine drugs in California:

  • 38,086 people sought treatment for amphetamine abuse in CA in 2018 – more than 30% of all substance abuse treatment cases for the state.
  • More men than women abuse amphetamines in California, with a split of about 60/40.
  • This 2019 news story about meth in California shows how meth use and overdoses are on the rise.

#2: Heroin

Heroin was responsible for more than a quarter of all of California’s substance abuse treatment center admissions in 2018. Heroin use has been on the rise across the country in recent years.

With the opioid epidemic in full swing, addicts are doing whatever they can to get a fix. When their supply of prescription opioids runs dry, they turn to the streets to find a cheaper alternative. This is where heroin comes into the mix.

Check out these shocking stats about heroin use in the state of California:

  • More than 32,000 people got treatment for heroin abuse in 2018 in CA.
  • Heroin overdose deaths rose every year in CA from 2010-2017, with 715 people dying of heroin overdose in the state in 2017.
  • More than 65 percent of the people who received treatment for heroin abuse in CA in 2018 were men.

#3: Alcohol

It can be easy to forget that alcohol is a drug, let alone one that is dangerous and deadly. In California, alcohol abuse is a huge problem. Millions of people suffer from alcohol use disorder in the state.

Check out these crazy stats about alcohol abuse in California:

  • Six percent of all Californians, or roughly 2.2 million people, met the criteria for an alcohol use disorder in 2018.
  • In total, about 22.5% of the treatment admissions for CA in 2018 were due to alcohol abuse.
  • Around 65% of people who got treatment for alcohol abuse were men.

#4: Marijuana

Weed is legal in California, but that does not mean that it is always safe to use. People like to focus on pot’s medicinal uses and tout it as a ‘non-addictive substance’. But the data shows otherwise. California is a major national hub for pot growth and use—and the stats show that this leafy green plant is not always safe to use:

  • More than 13,500 people received treatment for marijuana abuse in California in 2018.
  • Nearly 70% of those people were men.
  • Almost 40 percent of high school students in CA say they’ve smoked pot.

#5: Opiates Other Than Heroin

Heroin use has risen steadily in CA in recent years. Although prescription rates for opioids have been lowered, many people are still abusing painkillers in The Golden State. Abusing pain pills is very dangerous. It can start with a legitimate prescription and end in addiction. In some cases, people with prescriptions sell their pills to addicts.

Check out these stats about opiate abuse in CA:

  • Over 6,000 people needed treatment for opiates other than heroin in 2018.
  • It appears that women abuse pain pills more than men in CA.
  • Although prescription rates for opioids have declined over the past 7 years, overdose rates have remained about the same in CA.

Get Treatment for Substance Abuse in California

Are you one of the millions of people living with a substance use disorder in California? If so, you need to seek help now. Treatment centers can help you come up with a plan that works for your budget, timeframe, and needs.

It is never a good idea to avoid seeking help for substance abuse issues. Without treatment, minor issues can turn into full-blown addictions in the blink of an eye. Addiction can ruin your life.

If you are ready to turn your life around, call your local treatment center today. It is never too late for a fresh start.


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. California Adolescent Substance Abuse Facts. (2019, May 1). Retrieved from
  3. DASIS Quick Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, March 29). California Opioid Summary. Retrieved from
  5. California Adolescent Substance Abuse Facts. (2019, May 1). Retrieved from

We would love your feedback.

Was this article helpful?

Treatment Questions? Call 24/7.

(855) 265-2123