Alcohol is a toxic substance that has become intertwined with nearly aspect of American life. Almost all celebrations include it, it's a part of sporting events, and most any restaurant encourages drinking as part of a meal. However, alcohol is not indicated as a treatment for any malady and is known only to make any illness worse. On top of this, it is addictive and can be a major threat to public health. Most police officers or ER nurses could fill volumes with traumatic stories that all center on alcohol.

The worst part of alcohol is its addictive properties. When a drinker becomes addicted to alcohol, everyone around them can suffer. Their families can become trapped in abusive cycles, their employers see a decline in performance, and their friendships may either dissolve or become rooted in drinking alone.

California may be a land of sunshine and movie stars, but it's also home to many alcoholics in need of treatment and long-term sobriety. This page is dedicated to sharing information regarding achieving a healthier, happier life in that most lovely state.

Alcohol Usage Statistics in California

While the Northeast and Midwestern United States tend to dominate the statistics for binge drinking, California remains in the second worst tier. In fact, binge drinking cost California's 2010 taxpayers approximately $35 billion, or $940 per capita. The state's problem drinkers also doubled the number of illicit drug users, with 6% meeting the diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction and 3% qualifying as illicit drug addicts.

California's alcohol woes begin early, unfortunately. Before they reach 11th grade, more than half of California's teenagers have tried alcohol. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, 5.1% have been found to have experienced binge drinking, however these statistics may be impacted by the fact that youths are less likely to self-report drinking when they fear reprisal.

The next age group, ages 18-25, binges at a rate of 36%. California binge drinking rates start to decline after age 25, leveling off to 24.2%.

Drug Usage in California

Illicit drug abuse is also problematic for Californians. For every 100,000 Californian men, 16.2 died from drug-induced overdose in 2016. Nearly half as many Californian women are killed by drugs, as the state lost 8.3 women per 100k in the same year. Meanwhile, a full 8% of all Californians, aged 18 to 25, are reported to misuse pain medications. Kids aged 12 to 17 misuse these drugs at a rate of 3.5% and those over 26 are slightly better with a 4.3% rate of abuse. Cocaine, on the other hand, is almost exclusively the domain of younger adults between 18 and 25. 7.2% of younger adults use illicit substances while only .8% of 12- to 17-year-olds are reported to only use it, and a mere 1.8% of those over 25 use cocaine.

Thankfully, Californians' use of heroin doesn't mirror their abuse of prescription pain medications. Less than one half of one percent of the population is known to use the illicit opioid.

Most at Risk Groups

Demographics play a significant role In California's drug and alcohol picture. The most at-risk group in the state appears to be Native Americans, whose death rate exceeds their closest competitor by nearly 50%. For every 100,000 Natives, there were 33 drug overdose deaths in 2016. In that same year, Natives lost 28.5 people per 100k.

Meanwhile, the next worst rates of death from substance abuse was found in the white population. For every 100k whites, 19.4 were lost to drug overdose and 13.5 were killed by alcohol. Latinos were slightly more at risk for alcohol-related death, with a rate of 14.4 deaths per 100k. There are no figures showing how alcohol contributed to liver diseases, heart disease, or other indirect deaths.

California's black population tracks slightly behind whites, but on the national front their fatality numbers generally seem to be on the decline. Where whites and latinos have rates significantly above the national average for all ethnicities, the black population has been well below the average since circa 2005.

Drug and Alcohol Death Statistics in California

It's always a tragedy when we lose even a single person to alcohol or drugs. The CDC reports that the state of California had 4,868 deaths due to drug overdose in 2017. However, the agency doesn't publish specific numbers for alcohol overdose. However, it can be interesting to look at the other causes of death.

For instance, the number 1 cause of death in California that year was heart disease. Alcohol can play a significant role in that malady, as well as in the case of accidents (#6), Diabetes (#7), Hypertension (#9), and Liver Disease (#10). Alcohol is also well known to play a role in many violent deaths such as firearm deaths which killed 3,184 Californians and homicide, which killed 2,022. Finally, between 2003 and 2012 there were over 10,000 deaths attributed to DUI in California.

All About Treatment Centers


Inpatient treatment is often considered one of the last resorts for a problem drinker. After all, they have to leave their jobs and families to enter an institution for an extended period of time. This is not an outcome that many family members, much less the alcoholic themselves, wants to face.

However, when someone simply cannot stop drinking and is a source of pain and hardship for those around them, inpatient treatment might be the very best option. If the person's very life has become part of his disease and they are trapped in the grip of a drinking cycle which may lead to jail or death. When a drinker is removed from their environment, they can gain a perspective on themselves that their ordinary life does not allow. The subsequent process of reintegration can then help them, and their family, identify problem areas and assess them in the new lens of sobriety.


Another option for alcohol rehabilitation is outpatient treatment. In this scenario, the alcoholic is able to remain in their current job, live at home, and pursue therapy throughout the week. This can be a good option for those whose finances won't support the total removal required by inpatient treatment.

Outpatient treatment is interesting because it allows the alcoholic to remain close to the people, places, and things that are part of their drinking life. These things, including family members, bosses, and coworkers, might trigger or tempt them to drink. They can then address these issues with an addiction counselor who is there in the community. Another option for outpatient treatment is for the patient to move into a sober house where they will have strict rules governing their schedule and where they might even receive drug screening. This option is as close to a full inpatient treatment facility as possible without totally destroying the person's life.



California's drug and alcohol treatment facilities must have special credentials before they can receive funds from insurance or be acknowledged by the state. In California, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) needs to assess and license facilities before they can be recognized. In particular, facilities that provide the following services must be licensed:

  • Detoxification
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Educational sessions
  • Alcoholism and other addiction recovery treatment planning
  • Incidental medical services

Note that the DHCS not only licenses facilities, but they also certify them. Certification is warranted when institutions exceed the ordinary expectations for licensure. Thus, potential patients and their families should first seek out rehabs that are certified, as they are more likely to have the best services.

Do They Accept Insurance?

Addiction therapy is not cheap and so patients will often need insurance to help pay for it. In California, approximately 56% of rehabs will accept private insurance, 21% will take Medicare, and 35% will take Medicaid. CalHealth will cover nearly 25% of all rehab institutions. There are other ways to cover rehab such as military insurance, Access to Recovery vouchers, IHS/Tribal/Urban funds, and 61% offer a sliding fee scale.

Note that some rehabs offer scholarships, and many have payment plans for patients who don't have insurance or whose insurance doesn't cover all of the costs. Rehabilitation providers want to help people achieve sobriety and they often make this sort of investment in their mission. If you need financial aid to get into a treatment facility, seek out non-profit and even religiously affiliated centers. They don't cut costs or provide special deals because they lack patients but because they care about helping people get sober. Their passion will benefit far more than your pocketbook.

Treatment Center Statistics in California

  • Type of Facility

    The 2017 SAMHSA report on Substance Abuse Treatment Centers surveyed 1,311 centers statewide, 87.6% of which responded to the survey. At the time of their study, there were over 118,000 patients receiving care in those facilities.

    Slightly more than half of the state's rehabs were reported as being private, non-profit organizations. Those facilities treat just over 44,000 patients, accounting for 37% of the state's recovering addicts. They were also assisting 2,300 minor patients which comprise 47% of the state's young people in rehab.

    Private, for-profit institutions were less common with a total number of 443 institutions, or 33% of the total number. These for-profit organizations care for over 62,000 patients which are 52% of California's total recovering, inpatient addicts. Their minor patient population was 1,800, or 37%, of the total.

    There are other types of rehabilitation facility supported by California:

    • Local, county, or community government facilities – 110
    • State government – 5
    • Federal government – 33
    • Tribal government – 21
  • Substance Abuse Problems Treated

    California's drug abuse problems track with the rest of the country. The state showed that, on average, 8.5% of their citizens were addicted to any substance whatsoever. That is broken down to show that 6.4% are addicted to alcohol and 3.3% are addicted to illicit substances. A relatively small number, .6%, were addicted to pain medications.

    As far as treatment is concerned, illicit substances led the pack. In 2015, 55% of addicts admitted to California's state and county contracted treatment facilities were addicted to either amphetamines (30%) or Heroin (25%). Alcohol contributed 22% to the population, with 11% reporting as alcohol-only addicts and 10% were cross addicted with alcohol and some other drug. Other opiates, cocaine, and other substances all accounted for another 9%.

  • Facility Payment Options

    You have many options for covering the cost of your drug and alcohol treatment in California. The first is paying with cash. Most facilities will accept in-full payments and sometimes healthcare providers allow a discount since they are alleviated the hassle of requesting payment from insurance providers.

    On the other hand, most patients rely on some form of insurance. Private insurers are bound by the Affordable Care Act to cover mental health treatments the same as purely physical ailments. You may also qualify for CalHealth, the state's healthcare plan which is similar to Medicare.

  • Services Offered

    When you go to rehab for your alcohol addiction, you may encounter a few services that apply specifically to your condition. One of the main ones among these is detoxification. While other drug addicts may not go to detox centers, such as those addicted to benzodiazepines, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. Thus, your condition may require a bit more care than some others.

    There are also specific drugs that are used to treat alcoholism. Antabuse, for instance, is used to dissuade drinkers from imbibing as it will make you nauseated if you try to take a drink. Campral is another that is used to curb alcohol cravings and Revia can block the high from drinking.

    Your rehabilitation center may also have special groups that are aimed specifically at the problems that alcoholics face. For instance, an alcohol addict faces challenges because their drug is ubiquitous in society. They need to learn how to maneuver social situations where booze is a central feature such as weddings, sporting events, or simply a nice Friday night dinner out.

Find an Alcohol and Drug Rehab Centers in California

Checking In

Checking into to an alcohol rehabilitation center is a lengthy process. First, you’ll have to fill out the initial intake form. These are often standard forms, not unlike what you may have filled out in a medical doctor's office. From there you are likely to go through a series of examinations by the staff who will assess your drug use history. You may also have a session with a psychiatrist to assess whether you need a prescription for anti-depressants or other psychiatric drugs.

Note that in California you may be subject to involuntary commitment. However, this process requires that either a law enforcement official, certain staff at a treatment facility, or a government official to initiate the process. They must also receive a supporting clinical assessment from a licensed professional such as a doctor, registered nurse, or a licensed mental healthcare worker.

Detox & Withdrawal

Detoxification is often the first stage in any treatment plan. If you are a daily drinker who experiences tremendous withdrawal symptoms when you try to dry out, you should probably enter a medical detox facility prior to entering the more mental health portion of your recovery. You can see how you do by not drinking for a day or two. Note withdrawal symptoms, if any. If you are uncertain, discuss the issue with an addiction professional or a medical doctor.

Even if you don't need to enter a detox clinic, that doesn't mean that you won't experience any sort of withdrawal. Cravings are likely to crop up from time to time and many alcoholics report having dreams or even intrusive thoughts about alcohol. Discuss your feelings with a counselor who can help you work through this side of withdrawal. In fact, many continue experiencing intrusive thoughts or random craving for many months. However, it gets better. If you work with the counselors and/or a 12-step program, it will get better.

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Craving for sweets
  • Heavy sweating
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fever
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Cardiac arrest

Short- or Long-term Inpatient Treatment

For inpatient treatment, you are likely to fill your days with classes regarding alcoholism. These courses cover the impact of alcohol on the body and mind. You may also attend courses that discuss relapse and how to prevent it. Then you will likely have time to sit with a counselor.

Each patient generally is assigned a primary counselor with whom they meet daily or at least several times a week. On top of that you may attend group therapy sessions. In fact, much of your experience in rehabilitation is likely to be group oriented. Your peers may offer examples to follow and soon you will become a model for newer patients.

Inpatient treatment generally seems to be on a 30-day schedule for most patients. However, 30 days has been shown to be inadequate for attaining lasting sobriety. If you can, seek out a 60-, or 90-day treatment facility. Note that some have a tiered approach, which is intense for the first 30 days and then eases off for the rest of the time. However, your focus will remain on recovery and sobriety regardless of what phase you're in.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment can be a vital part of your recovery, especially if you only attend a 30-day inpatient program. That's because it's been proven that alcoholics need far more than 30 days to achieve sobriety. Thus, if you plan a smooth transition from your inpatient program to, say, a halfway house, and then continued therapy on an outpatient basis, you will keep your feet firmly rooted in sobriety.

Outpatient programs come in many different shapes and sizes, but most will provide individual counseling, group therapy, drug testing, and will possibly host 12-step meetings. You'll probably drop by the center a few times each week for sessions or some recovery-related activity. If your outpatient program is part of the same institution that housed your inpatient program, you can continue being a part of that recovery community. This way you can begin to build a strong sobriety network.

You should also start attending 12-step or other sobriety-related meetings on your own, or with a friend from your in/outpatient network. This way you can fill-in those empty nights with recovery and fellowship. While this may seem like a lot, consider how much time and energy you spent drinking or getting high. Your sobriety is worth it.