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Drug Abuse in Mission Viejo: Statistics, Trends & Treatment

Mission Viejo is a beautiful town in Southern California with a population of almost 100,000 people. It boasts one of the highest safety ratings in the state and has a strong local economy with healthier than average citizens when compared to the rest of the state. Drug use, however, is also present in the city and impacts citizens of all demographics.

lake in mission viejo

History of Drug Use in Mission Viejo

The history of drug use in Mission Viejo reflects trends that have soared across the county. Just as the country battles the opioid overdose epidemic, so does Orange County, where Mission Viejo resides.

The affluence that spreads across Orange County could be partially to blame for the high rates of prescription drug related problems. People in this area typically have health care and easy access to prescription medications that they can afford.

Many of the people encountering problems with prescription drug use and overdoses are middle to upper class. Prescription drug use combined with alcohol leads to many accidental deaths each year. Data from 2011 and 2012 found 1,156 deaths caused by drug and alcohol related overdoses.

Additional statistics about Orange Country drug use include:

  • Nearly twice as many men as women experienced fatal overdoses.
  • White males between the ages of 45 and 64 were most likely to overdose.
  • Fatal overdoses increased by 51 percent from 2000 to 2012.
  • Eight out of 10 fatal overdoses are accidental.
  • About 19 percent of fatal overdoses were caused by a combination of alcohol, illicit, and/or prescription drugs.

Mission Viejo Drug Use vs. the U.S.

opioid epidemic

Just like Mission Viejo, the rest of the United States has seen a spike in prescription drug abuse over the past two decades. An overprescription of opioid medications led many people to develop an addiction to them and fueled the overdose epidemic. In the U.S. overall:

  • From 1999 to 2011, there was an118 percent increase in drug overdose deaths.
  • More than 130 people die every day due to opioid-related overdoses.
  • Over 11 million people misused prescription opioids in 2016.
  • In 2017, 17,087 people died from overdosing on prescription opioids.
  • Over 2 million people met the criteria for an opioid use disorder in 2016.

The skyrocketing rates of opioid use, abuse, and overdoses led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the opioid overdose epidemic a national health emergency in 2017. Much like local organizations in Mission Viejo, HHS pledged to focus more resources on opioid harm reduction and overdose prevention.

In addition to the high rates of prescription opioid abuse, illicit opioid use has fatal consequences for many people around the country. Over 15,000 deaths were attributed to heroin overdoses in 2017. Over 19,000 deaths were related to overdoses caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Compared to Mission Viejo, there are higher relative rates of illicit opioid abuse and overdoses around the country. Opioid overdoses in Mission Viejo are primarily due to prescription opioids.

Most Prominent Drugs in Mission Viejo

hand rejecting alcohol

The most prominent drugs being misused in Mission Viejo and Orange County are prescription drugs and alcohol. Rates of overdoses from prescription drugs continues to rise, but alcohol remains the most likely substance that people overdose on. Middle-age men show a preference for alcohol.

The most likely misused substance for anyone over the age of 44, however, is prescription drugs.

The drug of choice in Orange County also depends somewhat on the population being observed. The Salvation Army Orange County works with a lot of young to middle-aged Hispanic men and reports methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana being the most commonly abused drugs. Hispanic men in their 50s, however, prefer alcohol.

Current Drug Use in the Area

According to a 2017 report from the Orange County Health Care Agency in partnership with the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner, opioid-related overdose deaths remain one of the biggest substance abuse concerns in the county. From 2011 to 2015, the rate of fatal overdoses remained relatively stable. The rate of emergency room visits caused by opioid overdoses, however, more than doubled since 2005.

The types of opioids that led to overdoses in Orange County between 2011 and 2015 include:

  • Opium
  • Heroin
  • Natural or semisynthetic opioids
  • Methadone
  • Synthetic opioids

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 7,457 people who received emergency treatment for an opioid overdose in Orange County. Mission Viejo alone saw 268 opioid-related emergency department visits, which was the most of the southern cities in Orange County. Additionally, 7 out of 10 fatal drug overdoses during this time period were related to opioid abuse.

In an effort to reduce fatal outcomes, Orange County has invested resources in distributing naloxone, an antidote to an opioid overdose.

Community Response to Drug Use

education on drug abuse

The City of Mission Viejo has partnered with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to raise awareness about and fight abuse of drugs in Mission Viejo.

One of the primary efforts of the city regarding drug use is to lower rates of drug use among children and adolescents. Prescription drug abuse among youth is the primary target of Drug Free Mission Viejo, a combination of groups and projects in Mission Viejo.

Programs that contribute to the mission of Drug Free Mission Viejo include:

  • An Invisible Line. This four-part series is focused on drug use in Mission Viejo and how it impacts the town’s children.
  • Prescription Drug Abuse PSA. This public service announcement was created by Community Service Programs, Orange County, warning about the risks of prescription drug abuse.
  • Drug Prevention Coalition. This group was formed by the City of Mission Viejo. It invites all concerned citizens who are interested in current drug trends and promoting drug awareness programs throughout the city to participate.
  • The Parent Project. This 10-week program is offered by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for the parents of adolescents who are displaying defiant and destructive behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, truancy, violence, and gang involvement.
  • Stay Safe OC. This is a partnership between local communities and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to reduce crime and promote safety throughout Orange County.

While drug use among adults and youth continues to be a problem in Mission Viejo, as it is throughout the country, community members are working hard with local agencies to change the trends of drug use in and around the city. By promoting awareness and teaching youth and their parents about the risks of drug use and prevention and treatment options, the Mission Viejo community has taken an active role in the fight against drug use.

In addition to community efforts being made by Mission Viejo, the Orange County Health Care Agency has also pledged to improve drug use outcomes throughout the county. It offers several different programs to address the high rates of overdoses in the county.

  • Public education
  • Prevention programs
  • Outreach programs
  • Treatment services

Through these programs, the Orange County Health Care Agency is increasing treatment that is available throughout the county, hosting town hall and community meetings to raise awareness, educating parents about teen drug use, providing target outreach services among at-risk communities, and promoting harm reduction techniques, such as the proper disposal of prescription medications.

man receiving rehab treatment

Local Treatment Options and Support Groups

Some of the best local resources for people seeking support for their recovery are regularly scheduled 12-step meetings. Peer support meetings provide free and nonjudgmental support to anyone in recovery who is looking for help maintaining sobriety. These programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, exist for nearly every substance of abuse and are welcoming to everyone.

In addition to daily 12-step meetings, there are a variety of formal addiction treatment options offered in and around Mission Viejo. There is a wide array of private and public residential treatment centers as well as outpatient treatment programs and detoxification clinics throughout Orange County.

The Substance Abuse section of Orange County’s Social Services Agency Community Resources website provides links to multiple 12-step programs, referral services, health care agencies, sober living homes, and substance abuse treatment centers.

The important thing about selecting a treatment program is to find one that meets your individuals needs and goals for treatment. A well-suited program will be based on your level of substance use, what drugs you are using, any co-occurring health or mental health issues, and your goals.

If you are searching for an addiction treatment program in the Mission Viejo area, there are many options available to meet your treatment needs. 


2017 Opioid Overdose & Death in Orange County. (August 2017). Orange County Health Care Agency and Orange County Sheriff-Coroner.

Community Resources: Substance Abuse. (January 2019). Orange County Social Services Agency.

Mission Viejo, California. (2016).

Parents: Drug Free Mission Viejo. (January 2019). The City of Mission Viejo.

What Is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic? (September 2018). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Who’s Overdosing in Orange County? You Might Be Surprised. (October 2014). The Orange County Register.

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