Heroin use, abuse and addiction is something that is causing problems across the United States, but it is having a particularly devastating impact on the state of Texas. Heroin is a dangerous opiate, and one that is also highly addictive. By examining the scope of the heroin epidemic in Texas as well as its causes, it may be possible to help more Texans get the addiction treatment they need for full recovery.
The Scope of Texas’ Heroin Epidemic
At a low estimate, there are more than 50,000 individuals in the state of Texas who are addicted to heroin. Of course, that also means that there are far more people in Texas who use heroin recreationally but who haven’t necessarily become addicted to the drug. Over time, however, that number will almost certainly rise.
Also problematic in Texas is the fact that heroin use is on the rise for young people. In 2011, one study found that 3.3 percent of high school students have tried heroin, an increase from years past. Whenever drug use rises among the younger end of the population, there is a greater risk for severe addictions and drug overdoses. This is because young people can potentially use the drug for decades, although the resulting health problems and fatal overdoses could certainly limit their lifespan.
Of those patients admitted to the emergency room in Texas because of drug-related overdoses or problems, approximately thirteen percent were using heroin. Troublingly, an increasing number of these patients were under the age of 30, and nearly half were also abusing or addicted to another drug.
Annually, Texas sees a staggering 319 heroin poisoning deaths. These are fatal overdoses, and they are the worst symptom of an addiction to heroin. This number, perhaps more than any other, highlights the scope of the heroin epidemic in the state.
Factors Behind Rising Heroin Use in Texas
Heroin is on the rise across the country, but there are some specific factors that cause it to be more popular and more widely used in the state of Texas in particular. Proximity to Mexico is a major issue, since most heroin used in Texas is smuggled through the Mexican border. The relatively low price of heroin, its availability and its multiple types also factor into the equation.
There are two major types of heroin available in Texas: Mexican black tar and powdered brown. Known by brands like Dog Food, Mud and Ace of Diamonds, and it is typically injected in order to intensify the side effects of the drug. Snorting or inhaling heroin is less common, but it is just as dangerous and addictive.
A significant amount of the heroin used in Texas is smuggled from Mexico, and from Ciudad Juarez in particular. The drugs get through the border, often through El Paso, and places like El Paso and Dallas report that there is more heroin available in these cities year after year.
Thanks in part to the proximity to supply, which is just across the border, heroin purchased in Texas is cheaper than in other cities across the United States. This affordability also makes it more popular and encourages larger doses and more frequent consumption. A capsule or balloon of heroin can be found for as little as $5 in some Texan cities.
Exploring the Opiate Epidemic as a Whole
While proximity might be one factor in the rise of the heroin epidemic in the state of Texas, it is important not to discount the growing epidemic of opiate use across the entire country. Opiate prescriptions are on the rise, and there are an increasing number of addictions to things like prescription painkillers.
It is a short and slippery slope from the use of prescription opiate painkillers to the use of heroin. Even when patients are prescribed opiates to relieve pain, they can become addicted. They might go to extreme lengths to secure an ongoing supply of opiate painkillers.
Over time, however, it can be increasingly difficult to legally access prescription painkillers. Without proper medical insurance, it may also be very expensive. For those who are truly addicted to opiates, heroin may be the next logical step. Although heroin is not identical to other opiate-based medications, chemically they can stave off withdrawal symptoms and become a replacement for those struggling with opiate addiction.
The Dangers of Heroin Use and Addiction
It is nearly impossible to detail all of the horrific side effects that heroin use can bring. Addiction, of course, is a major side effect, and it can lead to the devastation of relationships, families, health and careers. In some cases, a heroin addiction can even lead to a fatal overdose.
Heroin use can also lead to immediate side effects. Just a few of the physical and emotional attributes that can be noticed minutes, days or weeks after using and abusing heroin can include the following:
- Constipation and digestive troubles
- Drowsiness, fatigue and insomnia
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin and scabs where the skin has been scratched
- Constricted pupils and sensitivity to light
- Slowed heart rate and breathing
- Extreme weight loss and malnutrition
- Nonexistent libido and loss of fertility
Treating a Heroin Addiction in Texas
Partly because of the heroin epidemic, Texas has a variety of addiction treatment centers where patients can seek help and achieve sobriety. Typically, heroin addiction treatment will begin with a detox program, followed by rehab.
Heroin addiction rehabilitation is an important aspect of recovery, and it is the best way to minimize the risk of relapse. In a Texas drug rehab facility, patients will be able to receive evidence-based treatment, seek out individual therapy, address underlying issues, explore the causes of addiction and share experiences through group counseling. In addition, patients will be able to receive comprehensive medical support to ensure their wellbeing throughout the process of recovery.
While there is a significant heroin epidemic in Texas and across the country, thankfully, awareness, therapy and rehabilitation can help those individuals struggling with heroin addiction to break ties with the drug and seek out a healthy, sober life.