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The Changing Texas Drug Abuse and Addiction Picture

In Texas as in the rest of the nation, drug abuse is increasing and changing at a rapid rate. While efforts have been concentrated on enforcement and punishment, the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse isn't responding as we'd hoped. More needs to be done. But repeating past efforts isn't enough; new forms of rehabilitation and drug abuse prevention must be explored and implemented before any real changes can be expected.


According to the DEA, The US Drug Enforcement Agency, methamphetamine production is up-trending again and a key player is called P2P, methamphetamine produced without pseudoephedrine. This is a method which was used in the 70s and 80s by street gangs and motorcycle gangs before the methods using pseudoephedrine and ephedrine were adopted because those precursors were more readily available. Then, when the law cracked down on these chemicals that are essential to the manufacture of a drug, the chemists and bathtub drug makers just altered the recipe by substituting another chemical and they were back in business.


Heroin in Texas is most often the black tar variety. Black tar heroin is a poorly refined version primarily from Mexico and while it is still very powerful, more pollutants and random chemicals are in the final product. This type of Heroin is also turned into the "brown powder" variety by adding other ingredients including diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine mainly used to treat allergies. While the number of users is increasing, the average age of Texans who are heroin addicts has been decreasing. 41 percent of persons admitted for treatment for heroin addiction were under 30 in 2005. Now, the percentage has risen to 52 percent.

The number of calls to the Texas Poison Center Network involving exposures to heroin has also undergone a drastic change. Calls numbered 181 in 1998, and by 2013 that number stood at 307. Interestingly, Texas poison control centers have reported decreased calls mentioning other opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. It has been suggested the increased use of heroin may be an unintended effect of tighter restrictions on the prescribing and dispensing of these pharmaceutical grade opioids.


Signs that marijuana demands are increasing include 23 percent of all admissions to treatment in the Lone Star State which mention marijuana as the primary drug abused. This is due, at least in part to the fact that TCH content of the cannabis being sold in Texas today is much higher than that of even five or ten years ago. The plants have been hybridized and grown hydroponically for many years, always with the purpose of increasing the potency of the cannabis. With the emergence of various forms of concentrated TCH products such as hashish and wax, the dangers of overdose and addiction have increased dramatically.


An unchanged facet of the Texas drug abuse scene is that alcohol is still the most widely abuse psychoactive substance. The most troubling aspect of the alcohol situation is that of binge drinking. Binge drinking, or "binging" means consuming five or more drinks at one sitting or in one party. According to the DEA report, secondary students, grades 7-12, in 2012 reported drinking five or more beers at one time and with hard liquor, 11 percent.

It is obvious that in the great state of Texas, there is a problem that needs to be dealt with on a state-wide basis. In an individual basis, it is vital that parents, school teachers and administrators and all officials concentrate efforts on prevention and rehabilitation of drug abuse and addiction before this huge problem grows any larger.

Why Are Drug Users in Texas Turning From Pills to Heroin?

While it isn't exclusively a problem for Texans, the number of people in Texas using heroin is much higher than it was in the past.

The trend in increased use of heroin is following a tightening of restriction on the dispensing of prescription opioid pain killers and other opiate based legal, prescribed drugs. According to a report by the University of Texas at Austin, Heroin users in Texas are younger and increasingly less likely to be people of color. The proportion of White treatment admissions has increased from 40% in 1974 to 61% in 2015.

The number of persons using heroin in Texas, mostly young people, spiked in the early 2000s with the advent of "Cheese Heroin". A combination of black tar heroin from Mexico and Tylenol 2, cheese heroin had an appearance like parmesan cheese and was being sold to young people for very low prices. Another, similar concoction has appeared in the Laredo area, called, "Mexican Queso" which is a combination of Xanax, Heroin and Excedrin PM.

Now, however, the prescription opioid pain pills that have until recently been prescribed for nearly everything under the sun have created a new phenomenon. In many parts of the US, particularly in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania, the incidence of addiction to opioid pain medications has been so high, it's spurred a nationwide policy change called the PDMP, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

This is a national database which contains information about any addictive pain med and some other addictive meds. PDMP is a state-run system in the form of a huge data-base tracking the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients. PDMPs can give a prescribing doctor or dispensing pharmacist a heads-up when a high-risk patient or other person attempts to refill prescriptions. This helps in the battle against drug diversion and the phenomenon of "doctor shopping". That is addicted patients begin visiting MD after MD complaining of ailments because they use over the allowed amounts of their medications due to addiction.

An unintended consequence of this crack-down on the run-away dispensing of opioid pain medications is showing up in explosive increases in heroin use and addiction. Patients' addictions to the pain pills will drive them to seek illegal alternatives to satisfy their cravings. They find that the pills on the street are exorbitantly expensive. Before long, their 'suppliers' offer a more powerful and less expensive alternative, Heroin.

Once addicted, users require treatment in a long-term facility in order to fully overcome the cravings and urges that are signatures of heroin addiction. To avoid relapse, follow up programs which include close contact with professionals will be needed as well.

Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older in Texas, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs (Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

The proportion of heroin treatment admissions in Texas, younger than 30 rose from 41 % in 2005 to 52 % in 2013.

Texas State Government Agencies

Drug Abuse Facts

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