For one week every summer, Huntington Beach, California hosts the U.S. Open of Surfing. This year the event ended in riots where young, white Orange County residents were knocking over portapotties, uprooting street signs, and eventually vandalizing stores.
What is leading an affluent group of young people to engage in this behavior?
The Huntington Beach surf riots are being linked to Orange County’s drug epidemic. The Orange County Coroner’s Office has released information stating that prescription drugs, mainly in the form of narcotic opiate painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana, and Norco, are responsible for an overdose death in Orange County every 2 days.
Further, from January to October of 2012, 28 people in Orange County died of from a heroin overdose, but five times that many, or over 140 deaths, were the direct result of pharmaceutically manufactured drugs designed to mimic heroin, morphine, codeine, and methadone.
When prescription painkillers are not available, young people are turning to heroin for the same high, and to avoid the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal. One set of side effects from going without a drug of choice is aggression, irritability, and violence, as evidenced by the Huntington Beach surf riots.
What exactly happened at the Huntington Beach surf riots?
Reports have surfaced that a fight started the rioting among patrons at the U.S. Open of Surfing, but other reports have said that fighting was just a part of the overall riots. Either way, hundreds of thousands of people went to the beach to watch professional surfers do what they do best. Without sufficient waves, it seems the crowd was not amused and when the event was winding down, the riots began.
The Huntington Beach Easyrider Shop was vandalized during the events. Burt Etheredge, an employee of the store, told NBC Los Angeles that, “We were all huddled inside the building and we had the lights off because all the people were up here mobbing around, and I was inside and I saw them tearing down the stop sign. As soon as that stop sign came down, I knew that stop sign was coming through the window. And sure enough, two seconds later, it did.”
Police officers showed up on the scene quickly, and county officials expressed disappointment and sadness surrounding the events.
Were those responsible for the vandalizing behaviors on drugs?
While watching footage of the event and seeing participants sharing pictures of the event on avenues of social media, it is pretty clear that drugs and alcohol played a role in the chaos. Orange County’s drug epidemic is evident and needs real intervention.
Orange County has a reputation for successful drug and alcohol rehab, but in a lot of cases, the centers are treating people who do not live within the county lines. It looks like the rehab community in the O.C. will need to start treating people in its own neighborhoods.
Several rehab facilities in Orange County treat people who are diagnosed with two or more disorders, which is called dual diagnosis. Often those who abuse drugs and alcohol are really self-medicating the symptoms of a mental illness or an eating disorder.
Kate Green, quality improvement manager, shares her passion for helping others with drug addiction at Balboa Horizons Treatment Services.