Substance Abuse Treatment in the City of San Francisco, California

Created On Monday, 19, August 2013
Modified On Friday, 15, October 2021


San Francisco, like many other California cities, continues to struggle with problems associated with drug addiction. Substance use treatment programs in California will help you recover from any type of drug addiction. Qualified professionals with will help you find the right drug rehabilitation program in San Francisco. Whether you are addicted to heroin, pain medication, or methamphetamine, drug rehabilitation is crucial to addressing the physical and psychological issues connected to substance use.

San Francisco is a city in Northern California, and like many other cities throughout the nation, a lot of people in the area need assistance to overcome their addiction. These individuals can find help as there is a wide variety of drug rehabilitation programs in San Francisco, ensuring that no matter the circumstances, addicts can receive the help they need to end their substance abuse problem for good.

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Growing Substance Abuse Problem in San Francisco

It is estimated that there are more drug addicts in San Francisco than there are high school students per a report written by the Hoover Institution. The drug abuse problem in San Francisco has become worse than in other major cities in the state. There is an estimated population of drug addicts of nearly 25,000, which is approximately 522 drug users per square mile. As of 2019, there were 16,000 high school students in the city. Various drugs are readily available across the city, and it is easy for addicts to have constant and regular access to most drugs.

The streets are covered with dirty needles, and in 2018 close to six million hypodermic needles were given out to intravenous drug users, and slightly over half are collected. Many parts of the city have open-air drug markets, according to the Hoover Institution article. These problems have led to city streets being lined with human excrement and used needles. On average, the city spends $54 million per year cleaning the streets. Along with the rising drug-using population are some issues with crime, such as the city's transit system requesting more money to hire more transit police. This is proof that substance abuse treatment in San Francisco is a necessity. 

The Effectiveness of Twelve Step Treatment Methods in San Francisco

The twelve-step program, such as alcoholics anonymous, has grown to a worldwide organization with over 115,000 groups. The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Cites a 50% success rate, stating that around 25% of those who follow the program remain sober after some relapses. However, exact rates of success, relapse, and maintained-sobriety are challenging to track within the 12-step programs because most members are anonymous. Some of the statistics place the success rate at around 10% of those who become part of the program remain sober, per the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Within the 12-step program, there have been recorded rates of dropping out of around 40%. According to Alcoholics Anonymous, approximately 27% of over 6000 members who stuck with the program remained sober for less than one year.

There are twelve-step recovery groups, outpatient programs, and some inpatient treatment services in San Francisco. Most people who attend 12-step programs will often stick with them for many years, some even for the rest of their lives. The 12-step program is not for everyone, and there are varying levels of success. However, when someone sticks with the program and follows through with the steps, they will tend to maintain his or her sobriety.

Homelessness and drug abuse

The problems with homelessness have been on-going issues within the city of San Francisco, and the homeless population has always been in the thousands. With homelessness comes drug addiction and epidemics of disease, spread through dirty needles, and unsafe drug practices. Harm reduction programs operate along with numerous substance abuse treatment programs in San Francisco and homeless shelters.

Treating Addiction Among the Homeless Population in San Francisco

In 2018 the city council in San Francisco was putting together a team of medical professionals that would go around the city handing out buprenorphine to homeless heroin addicts. Drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are devastating the city, and the homeless population has grown significantly. In 2016 the Department of Public Health within the city tested the effectiveness of prescribing buprenorphine within the tent camps across the city. The Public Health Department in the city estimates there are around 11,000 heroin addicts. The Public Works Department picks up more than 12,500 discarded needles every month at homeless hot spots and encampments.

The harm reduction programs within the city have essentially normalized drug abuse. Practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse have not worked. Much of the harm reduction approach is based on social justice and respect for the rights of people who use drugs. According to a City Journal article, the Department of Public Health distributes 4.45 million needles each year to over 22,000 intravenous drug users in the city. Typically, heroin and prescription opioids are the most injected substances; however, methamphetamine and fentanyl abuse have increased. Despite a continuous supply of clean needs, most drug addicts in the city are contracting diseases, experiencing a non-fatal overdose, and are on the brink of death. This could be avoided if more people reached out for help through the different alcohol & drug rehab programs in San Francisco.

The Difference Between Outpatient and Inpatient Drug Rehab in San Francisco

Typically, outpatient substance abuse treatment is for someone who is not severely addicted to drugs. People in San Francisco struggling with addiction who are still working, going to school, or maintaining different responsibilities in their lives would benefit from outpatient drug rehab. Within an inpatient program, the patient stays at the facility, and outpatient they attend daily while still living at home. Outpatient programs tend to have lower success rates when compared to residential treatment. However, an outpatient program in San Francisco is more affordable than residential drug treatment. An outpatient program can last three months to a year, whereas residential treatment centers provide 28-day programs or up to six months.

Opioids are still problematic in San Francisco, and there have been growing problems with fentanyl and methamphetamine. The number of deaths related to fentanyl has skyrocketed, and in 2018 they increased by 147%. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, 89 people died because of fentanyl in 2018. In 2018 there were 259 drug-related overdose deaths in the city, which was a 17% increase from 2017. An addict who has been through multiple overdoses would not benefit from an outpatient treatment program. Severe substance abuse, especially those that involve opioids require lengthy inpatient treatment. Methamphetamine addiction in the city has also been a contributing factor. In 2017 there were 99 meth-related overdose deaths, and in 2018 this increased to 126 deaths.


Here is a list of the different services in San Francisco, California. The list can be incomplete so please do not hesitate to contact one of our treatment specialists at 1-800-304-2219.



Marcel Gemme, DATS - Author

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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.